Strasburg strikes out 13, Nats win

Strasburg strikes out 13, Nats win
May 11, 2012, 2:01 am
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Game in a nutshell: Stuck in a three-game losing streak and in danger of getting swept by the Pirates, the Nationals needed their ace to deliver. And boy, did he. Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 batters over six innings, coming up one K shy of his career high (set in his big-league debut against Pittsburgh). A Nationals lineup, meanwhile, that had looked lost at the plate throughout this series came up big at last in the sixth when both Roger Bernadina and Adam LaRoche homered to deep left-center. Relievers Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez then closed it out, preserving the victory and keeping the Nationals in first place for the 30th consecutive day.

Hitting highlight: Stymied all night by Kevin Correia and seemingly pressing to try to make something happen and snap out of their offensive funk, the Nationals finally broke through in the top of the sixth, thanks to a pair of titanic blasts. Bernadina started things off by crushing a pitch into the back bullpen in deep left-center, perhaps a 440-foot, opposite-field homer. After Ryan Zimmerman walked, LaRoche nearly duplicated Bernadina's feat, crushing a ball just shy of the same spot. With those two blasts, the Nationals took the lead and for the first time in days were able to breathe a little easier.
Pitching highlight: Uh, was there really any question about this one? In his most-dominant performance since the last time he faced the Pirates, Strasburg dazzled with nearly every pitch. He wasn't perfect, particularly during a two-run fourth inning that featured three hits and during a tense sixth inning that featured three straight walks. But when he needed to come up big, he did in a big way, striking out Pittsburgh batter after Pittsburgh batter. No pitch was more important than his 103rd and final one of the night: a 96 mph fastball to Garrett Jones with the bases loaded, preserving a one-run lead.

Key stat: Combining the latter portion of his major-league debut and the first portion of this game, Strasburg at one point had struck out 14 of 16 Pirates batters.

Up next: The Nationals head down the Ohio River a few hundred miles for the start of a weekend series in Cincinnati. Gio Gonzalez faces Mike Leake at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Great American Ball Park.