Nationals start fast, never look back in win over Rockies

Nationals start fast, never look back in win over Rockies
July 1, 2014, 10:30 pm
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(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With the hubbub (and a dash of controversy) of Monday night behind them, the Nationals got down to business tonight and resumed the grind of the season with their healthy lineup still intact. On a sweltering night at the ballpark, they picked up right where they left off Monday, pounding the Rockies' beleaguered pitching staff once again.

The Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the first, then scored four times in the bottom of the fourth, getting contributions from nearly everybody and giving Stephen Strasburg a huge cushion for a change. Strasburg responded with his best start in a while, carrying a shutout into the eighth inning before succumbing at last.

So, the Nats secured their fourth straight win and improved to 7 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. They'll go for the series sweep tomorrow night.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: You have to be careful reading too much into this, given the opponent they're facing, but the Nationals' lineup has come to life the last two nights, now that everybody's healthy again. Especially encouraging tonight: Jayson Werth, who reached base four times, with a pair of doubles, two walks and three RBI. It's been a struggle the last few weeks, with the veteran chasing pitches out of the zone and not showing his typical plate discipline. Perhaps this is a sign of better things still to come for Werth.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Strasburg's night began in a bit of unsettling fashion: He needed 21 pitches just to get through the game's first three batters, with the top of the Colorado lineup fouling off pitches left and right and really making him work. But then the big right-hander settled in and cruised the rest of the night. He needed only 72 pitches to complete a 6-inning stretch after the laborious first and took the mound in the eighth inning for only the second time this season, only the seventh time in his career. D.J. LeMahieu did take him deep in the eighth to break up the shutout bid, but Strasburg could hold his head high at night's end. This was a much-needed, bounce-back start for him, erasing what concerns developed last week in Milwaukee.

KEY STAT: The Nationals have scored at least seven runs in three straight games for the first time since September 2012, when they did it five straight times en route to the NL East title.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up Wednesday when Doug Fister takes the mound against the Rockies' third straight left-hander: Tyler Matzek. Note the special starting time of 6:05 p.m. in advance of a postgame fireworks show.