On the day their opponents found out their best player this season was suspended 50 game for testing positive for a banned substance, the Washington Nationals went about their business as usual, winning another series on the road by defeating the Melky Cabrera-less San Francisco Giants 6-4, behind six more innings of effective pitching by their ace, Stephen Strasburg and timely big hits, such as Danny Espinosa’s two-run homer in the third inning that put the Nats up for good.
The win gives the Nats a 73-45 record and maintains their lead in the N.L. East at 4 1/2 games.
The Nationals went 8-2 on the now completed road trip and increased their road record to a Major League best 41-23 (641). Not only to the Nats have the best road record in baseball, but no one else has more home wins than the Nats have road wins. They have not lost a series on the road all season.
Strasburg was not his sharpest of the season, as he walked four in his six innings of work. But he held the Giants to four hits and struck out seven, allowing just two earned runs on a Brandon Crawford bases loaded single in the second inning. Strasburg walked the first two batters of the inning and a line drive single to set the table for Crawford.
Strasburg settled down after that and did not allow San Francisco to get multiple runners on in any other inning he pitched.
The Nats got a pair of runs in the first on a Jayson Werth bases loaded single, two more on Espinosa’s 13th homer of the year in the third, and single runs in the fifth and seventh. They jumped all over Giants starter Tim Lincecum, who threw only four innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and a walk.
THE TAKEAWAY: Perhaps it’s all the talk about The Shutdown, but maybe Strasburg is starting to show some wear as the season stretches through the dog days. He’s still able to generate swings and misses, but his fine-point control seems to be missing a bit. This makes back-to-back starts he walked four in six innings — though he’s given up just eight hits total in his past 18 innings. Regardless, he earned his 14th win of the season Wednesday by settling down and sticking it out after the tough second inning he had.
THE GOOD: Steve Lombardozzi. He went 4-for-5 with a run scored, raising his average to .280. With Ian Desmond returning soon from his oblique injury, Lombo is fighting to stay in the lineup somewhere. He’s 17-for-44 (.386) over his last ten games.
THE BAD: Sean Burnett. He gave up a run on three hits in one inning.
THE UGLY: Bryce Harper. He went 0-for-5, extending post All-Star game slump. In his past 32 games he’s hitting .170 (21-for-123) with just four extra-base hits.
THE STATS: 12 hits, 4 BBs, 10 Ks. 4-for-17 with RISP, 1 LOB, 0 GIDP. E: LaRoche (6), no DPs.
NEXT GAME: Friday, Aug. 17 at 7:05 pm against the New York Mets at Nats Park. Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18) hosts Johan Santana (6-8, 4.58).