Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 2

Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 2
July 25, 2012, 7:10 pm
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Game in a nutshell: They've failed plenty of times this season to pull off a series sweep when given the opportunity, but today the Nationals seized the opportunity and stepped on the Mets' throats. For that, they can thank Stephen Strasburg, who churned out seven dominant innings, striking out 11 while allowing only one run (Ike Davis' solo homer in the second). Strasburg's teammates bolstered him with plenty of run support, with Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa clubbing back-to-back homers in the top of the second and Adam LaRoche adding a two-run bomb in the seventh. Nothing ever comes easy for the Nationals, though, so the bullpen gave everyone a scare in the eighth when Henry Rodriguez walked both batters he faced and then Craig Stammen walked another to load the bases. No worries, because Drew Storen recorded a huge out against David Wright to end the threat, and Tyler Clippard finished off the ninth to secure the sweep and put the Nats 19 games over .500, matching their best record in eight seasons in D.C.

Hitting highlight: How much has Espinosa turned the corner from the left side of the plate? He's gone all the way around the block. With a second-inning homer and a fourth-inning double today, he's now hitting .433 (23-for-53) with six doubles, a triple, three homers and 10 RBI this month against right-handed pitchers. Espinosa has managed to remove the loop from his left-handed swing and is now attacking pitchers with a compact, powerful stroke that has allowed him to become a potent threat from both sides of the plate. The Nats couldn't be more thrilled by that development.

Pitching highlight: For weeks, Steve McCatty has been pounding the idea into Strasburg's head he needed to be more aggressive with his fastball, using that pitch even when ahead in the count to retire batters. Message received. Entering today, Strasburg had thrown his fastball 62.4 percent of the time. Today, he threw it 71.3 percent of the time. And it worked. Not only did the right-hander dominate, striking out 11 in seven innings. He also kept the ball in the strike zone, not issuing a walk and needing only 94 pitches to complete his afternoon. If Strasburg is able to make this adjustment a permanent thing, watch out.

Key stat: Over the last six games, the Nationals rotation has posted a 1.32 ERA and allowed 27 total hits over 41 innings. That streak began with Saturday's doubleheader against the Braves, which saw Edwin Jackson allow one run over seven innings in the opener and John Lannan allow two runs over seven innings in the nightcap.

Up next: With this sweep under their belts, the Nationals now head to the Great Midwest for a four-game series in Milwaukee. Right-handers Edwin Jackson and Yovani Gallardo start things off Thursday at 8:10 p.m. from Miller Park.