Stras shakes off rust as Nats rally to beat Crew
Washington scores 4 in 8th with 2 outs; Soto hits go-ahead 2-run single
WASHINGTON -- The calendar flipped to September on Saturday and these Nationals find themselves in unexpected and unfamiliar territory. They have continued to hover around a .500 record, having shipped away five key contributors in August to the contenders they assumed they would compete with instead of finding themselves distant from postseason contention.
Yet, Washington is determined to put together a strong showing to close out the final month of this disappointing season, like the effort to close out a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Milwaukee that began Saturday night and ended in the opening hours of Sunday morning. Stephen Strasburg tossed his most effective outing yet since returning from the disabled list, and after a one-hour, 57-minute rain delay, Juan Soto's two-run single in the bottom of the eighth put the Nats in the lead.
"They had to wait here just like we did in these bad conditions," Strasburg said. "To be able to pull a win out of there makes it worth it."
The Nats trailed by two runs before the eighth was interrupted by rain. In fact, they had played from behind the entire game until they rallied for four runs during the eighth, all with two outs, thanks to the shaky command of Joakim Soria. Trea Turner cut the lead to one to set the stage for Soto, who went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Anthony Rendon scored an insurance run on a wild pitch, which came in handy when pinch-hitter Tyler Saladino hit a solo homer in the ninth. But Justin Miller bounced back from the homer to secure the ninth.
But Soto provided the go-ahead hit in the latest bright spot for the Nats rookie. After a brief slump, the 19-year-old is starting to heat up once again, reaching safely in seven of his past eight games and batting .433 with two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.
"Just keep doing Juan Soto things," he said when asked about making adjustments. "I just keep working and coming every day to fight."
One of the storylines the Nationals will watch closely before season's end will be how Strasburg's season, mired by injuries, concludes. On Saturday, he gave up two runs in six innings with seven strikeouts and two walks, easily his most impressive outing since returning from the DL after his first two were met with mixed results. His seven strikeouts are his most since June 1.
Strasburg also said he has been working on shortening his stride, and he felt it start to pay off in this game.
"His velo's back plus the first few innings he was lights out," manager Dave Martinez said. "That's the Strasburg that we've seen in the past. So hopefully he's got it now and he's good, and in five days we see that same Stras."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Ryan Zimmerman made an over-the-shoulder running grab in foul territory to end the eighth inning, sprinting 85 feet down the right-field line to make the catch and help the Nats escape a bases-loaded jam.
HE SAID IT
"It's kind of obviously been a frustrating year for all of us, but with that said you learn a lot. I'm going to continue learning and try to get better." -- Strasburg, on his progress since returning from the DL
The Nationals and Brewers wrap up this weekend set with Sunday afternoon's rubber game at 1:35 ET. Jefry Rodriguez will take the mound for the Nats, trying to continue the progress he has shown lately. In his last three outings, he has posted a 1.69 ERA and held opponents to a .182 batting average. Junior Guerra will be the opposing pitcher for Milwaukee.