WASHINGTON -- As he made his way around the bases after a walk-off home run in the ninth inning that gave the Nationals a 5-4 victory over the Tigers, Clint Robinson wondered why the rest of his team gathered around home plate. While warming up in the batting cage, Robinson had lost track of the innings and didn't even realize he had hammered his first career walk-off homer to cap off a wild Monday night at Nationals Park.
"Probably had a little bit of a calming effect on me, maybe, going up to the plate thinking it's just the eighth inning, just another pinch-hit at-bat, no big deal," Robinson said. "And then rounding third knowing it was a walk-off homer just made it that much sweeter."
The walk-off, which snapped Washington's four-game losing streak, was a fitting end to a night that also featured the surprising news of Stephen Strasburg's seven-year, $175 million contract extension, which broke while he was on the mound. The club announced the deal on Tuesday, and it is an enormous boost for the organization that drafted and developed Strasburg.
The right-hander, off to an outstanding start in his seventh big league season, turned in another strong outing. He struck out 11 batters over seven-plus innings, although Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez each tagged him for two-run homers. The Nationals are 7-0 when their homegrown ace starts in 2016, and they have won his last 11 starts dating back to last year.
"It was a grind. I threw a couple of pitches that I definitely would want back," said Strasburg, who declined to comment on his contract situation. "I just kept trying to turn the page and try to do everything I can to keep the score where it was."
Robinson's walk-off homer came one batter after Bryce Harper was ejected for yelling from the dugout after Danny Espinosa was called out on strikes. After the game, Harper raced back out from the clubhouse to celebrate with the Nationals at home plate, but first he yelled an expletive at home-plate umpire Brian Knight.
"I was pretty upset," Harper said. "I think I was right to do that. Let him hear what I have to say, let him hear it again, and so what?"
Meanwhile, Detroit was unable to hold an early lead and dropped its seventh consecutive game. Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez lasted six-plus innings and was charged with four runs on six hits. He was the latest pitcher to be tormented by Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who collected two more hits for his 16th multihit game of the year, one of which was a two-run home run.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sharp Strasburg signs extension: Although the timing was odd in that the news broke during the middle of his start, the Nationals locked down Strasburg in the midst of the best start to a season in his career at 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA.
"I don't really have a comment about that right now," he said. "I'm just really excited about this game. It was a lot of fun to watch. It was a mental test for all of us. I think we've showed that before, that if we stick together and keep playing hard that things will even out."
Strasburg turned in another solid outing, complete with a key bunt with runners at the corners in the seventh inning, which loaded the bases when Sanchez could not field it cleanly. Ben Revere took advantage and tied the game at 4 with a sacrifice fly. More >
Castellanos cleans up: With no designated hitter, manager Brad Ausmus moved American League batting leader Castellanos up into the cleanup spot, where he converted his two-out chance with Ian Kinsler on base in the opening inning with his sixth home run of the year, a hook shot over the left-field fence off a Strasburg fastball.
Harper ejected: Knight told manager Dusty Baker he had warned Harper about arguing over the strike zone earlier in the game, so when Harper was one of the players shouting from the dugout in the ninth, Knight handed him an ejection.
"Most of the guys in the dugout thought that that ball was high on Espinosa," Baker said. "I guess you can't kick everybody out on the team. A lot of the guys were hollering about it." More >
Seventh sinks Sanchez: After struggling to pitch past the middle innings for most of April, Sanchez made it into the seventh for the second straight outing. With a one-run lead and the bottom third of the order up, however, he couldn't get the out he needed. Michael Taylor hit a hard single off the left-field wall before Espinosa's hit-and-run single moved him to third. Sanchez's errant attempt to pick up Strasburg's sac bunt loaded the bases with nobody out for the top of the order, ending Sanchez's night.
"He's sailing along and he's coming through the bottom part of the lineup the third time," Ausmus said. "You feel like he's still in a good position to succeed. It just didn't work out."
"I'll pay it. Maybe [Knight will] get fined too." -- Harper, on a potential fine
"Focused. Laser focus" -- Murphy, on Robinson not knowing it was a walk-off homer
"We're going through a tough skid right now. We've just got to figure out a way." -- Castellanos
In the eighth inning, Cabrera was initially called out trying to advance on a passed ball. The Tigers challenged the call on the field, which was confirmed after a review of approximately one minute and five seconds.
Tigers:Michael Fulmer's maturation from top prospect to big league pitcher continues Tuesday night with his third Major League start in place of injured Shane Greene. Fulmer is 151 days younger than Harper, who will be his biggest challenge in the 7:05 p.m. ET start at Nationals Park.
Nationals:Joe Ross will take the mound for the Nationals on Tuesday night. He would rank second in the National League in ERA at 1.23 if a blister did not force him to miss a start earlier in the season. This will be his first career start against the Tigers.
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