WASHINGTON -- Not only is Stephen Strasburg quickly regaining his form on the mound after missing nearly a month with a right elbow impingement, but he is also locked in at the plate. Strasburg belted a home run and went the distance on Wednesday in the Nationals' 4-0 victory over
WASHINGTON -- Not only is Stephen Strasburg quickly regaining his form on the mound after missing nearly a month with a right elbow impingement, but he is also locked in at the plate. Strasburg belted a home run and went the distance on Wednesday in the Nationals' 4-0 victory over the Marlins at Nationals Park.
Behind Strasburg's second career shutout, Washington polished off a three-game sweep and broke open a 15-game lead over the Marlins, who fell to 66-66, in the National League East.
"Today was his day" Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Strasburg. "For pitching, hitting, getting away with one on [Giancarlo] Stanton. It was his day today."
Strasburg struck out eight Marlins while allowing six hits and just one walk on 110 pitches (78 strikes). Wednesday marked his first complete game since Aug. 11, 2013, against the Phillies, which was also a shutout.
"You can't sit here and after the first inning and think, 'I'm going to go nine today,'" Strasburg said. "The game's way too hard. Just try and break up the game and take it one pitch at a time and go as long as you can until they take the ball out."
The Nationals lowered their number to claim the division to 16 over the second-place Marlins, who remain 5 1/2 games behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card spot.
"At this point, it's game to game," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "I thought we were flat. I didn't think we had very much energy today. Then their guy was really good. We really can't allow that to happen. Obviously, it's going to, from time to time. Usually, the guy on the mound sets the tone for what you're going to be able to do."
Marlins left-hander Adam Conley's pitch count ran up to 111 over six innings, but he was able to execute when he needed to. But a pair of home runs in the fifth inning -- to Strasburg and Wilmer Difo -- proved costly.
About the only trouble Strasburg encountered was with J.T. Realmuto, who collected three hits and was a home run shy from achieving the first cycle in Marlins history. Miami's regular catcher, who got the start at first base on Wednesday, had been in an 0-for-17 slump, including 0-for-8 in the series.
"Figuring something out that we saw on film that helped me out today," said Realmuto, who worked pregame with assistant hitting coach Frank Menechino. "Mechanical error on my part. Got that fixed and had some better at-bats today."
A scoreless deadlock ended when Strasburg seized the moment in the fifth. He got himself into -- then out of -- trouble in the top half. In the bottom half of the frame, the right-hander connected on a home run to right-center to open the scoring. Statcast™ projected the drive at 409 feet, with an exit velocity of 100.9 mph. It was his second of the season and third of his career.
"The one to Strasburg was the only pitch I really didn't like," Conley said of his biggest mistake of the day. "I felt like I was throwing the ball well. To the pitcher, there, the only thing I have on my mind was to get ahead. I threw that one over the middle, and he got a hold of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Strasburg takes the fifth: Just when the Marlins appeared to be in business in the fifth, Strasburg took ownership of the inning. Realmuto hit a leadoff triple down the left-field line in a scoreless game. With the infield in, Strasburg struck out Derek Dietrich and A.J. Ellis before intentionally walking Miguel Rojas to face Conley, who lifted a lazy fly ball to left. After the big escape, Strasburg homered to lead off Washington's half of the inning.
"He was very determined from the beginning," Baker said. "You could just sort of tell, the look on his face. He had a great day. He hit. He pitched. … That was an excellent job by Stras." More >
Turning on the burners:Trea Turner, reinstated on Tuesday after being out since June 30 with a fractured right wrist, has some ground to make up in the stolen base standings. The speedster entered Wednesday with 35 steals, which is third in the NL behind Billy Hamilton (54) and Dee Gordon (47).
Turner swiped second in the seventh inning, and it was a big base, because he scored Washington's third run on Anthony Rendon's two-out double.
"He wanted [the complete game]. You could tell that he wanted it. If a guy wants it, then you give it to him." -- Baker, on allowing Strasburg to go for the shutout
"We were pretty much overmatched, it seemed like today. He had like 73 pitches over seven innings, so 10 pitches per inning, basically." -- Mattingly said
Marlins: Miami returns home after a quick trip to open a four-game series with Philadelphia at 7:10 p.m. ET on Thursday. Odrisamer Despaigne (0-1, 3.70 ERA) gets the start for Miami. Rookie Ben Lively (1-5, 4.36 ERA) pitches for the Phillies.
Nationals: Washington heads to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers at 8:10 p.m. ET on Thursday at Miller Park. The Nationals tap the red-hot Giovany Gonzalez, who has won each of his last five starts.
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Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.
Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Nationals on Wednesday.