The first three Washington Nationals hitters against Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer — making his MLB debut — all scored, setting a tone for what looked like a laugher at steamy Nats Park Wednesday night. But Archer settled down, the Nats bats never reawakened, and they left the heavy lifting to their ace, Stephen Strasburg.
The big right-hander made those three first inning runs stand up, ending the Nats four-game losing streak in the process, as the Nats escaped with a 3-2 win over the Rays before 27,485 hot, sweaty patrons.
With the win, the nats record stands at 39-27, three games ahead of second place New York and 3 1/2 in front of Atlanta in the N.L. East.
Unlike the first game of this series, the only drama in this game was actually on the field, though the two managers, Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon, continued their war of words in their pre-game press conferences, stemming from the incident Tuesday where Johnson asked for Joel Peralta’s glove to be checked for a foreign substance and Peralta’s subsequent ejection when pine tar was indeed found in the glove.
The Nats got to Archer quickly in the bottom of the first. Steve Lombardozzi lead off with a double to right center and Bryce Harper followed with a single to the same spot, which scored Lombardozzi. Harper took second on the throw home, which was not particularly close. Ryan Zimmerman (0-for-4) grounded to short, but Harper took off for third regardless.
A good throw probably would have had Harper, but it was not a good throw from shortstop Elliot Johnson. The ball kicked away from the bag and with nobody backing the play up, the ball trickled into the Rays dugout. allowing Harper to score and Zimmerman go to second.
After two outs, Zimmerman came around on Ian Desmond’s RBI single. That was the last Nats hit of the night.
The rest was up to Strasburg, and he was up to the test. He gave up single runs in the second and third, on Jose Molina’s monster home run and a Hideki Matsui RBI single, but that was all. For the night, Strasburg (W, 9-1, 2.46) went seven innings,throwing 111 pitches, 70 for strikes. He gave up five hits and walked two, striking out 10, and he appeared to get better as the night wore on.
“I hated to hook him,” Johnson said following the game.
Sean Burnett pitched an uneventful eighth innings and Tyler Clippard struck out two in a perfect ninth inning, earning his 10th save of the season.
THE GOOD: Clearly, Strasburg. He was the stopper last night, stretching his record to 9-1.
THE BAD: The Nats made the Rays throw 101 pitches in eight innings (12.625 per inning). The Nats threw 141 in nine innings (15.67 per inning).
THE UGLY: In the sixth inning, with a rookie making his MLB debut, who walked over five per nine innings in AAA this season, on a 95 degree June evening, the Nats made three outs on four pitches. That’s unconscionable.
THE STATS: 3 H, 1 BB, 10 Ks. 2-for-5 with RISP, 1 LOB, 1 GIDP. No errors, 1 DP.
NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 against the Rays. Gio Gonzalez (8-3, 2.52) hosts lefty Matt Moore (4-5, 4-5, 4.16).