WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continue to shine with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. The right-hander pitched six solid innings as Washington routed the Cardinals, 10-2, on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.The Nationals have won 15 consecutive starts made by Strasburg, extending his own franchise record. Strasburg also became the first
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continue to shine with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. The right-hander pitched six solid innings as Washington routed the Cardinals, 10-2, on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.
The Nationals have won 15 consecutive starts made by Strasburg, extending his own franchise record. Strasburg also became the first starter in franchise history to win his first nine decisions in a season, one more than Pedro Martinez in 1997. He improved to 9-0 by allowing one run on six hits with four strikeouts.
"I was missing a little bit on some fastballs, but it felt good coming out of the hand," Strasburg said.
The run came in the fourth inning when Brandon Moss hit a mammoth home run into the right-field upper deck to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.
"Stras certainly earned his money," manager Dusty Baker said. "This is big for him and us. … He has the stuff to be a big winner. Success breeds confidence. I'm sure this guy is at an all-time high in confidence and concentration."
Jayson Werth -- who broke the game open with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh -- took notice in Spring Training that Strasburg was in great shape and talking a lot.
"Early in the spring, you had a feeling he was going to have a big year. So far, so good," Werth said. "The contract [extension] has helped. He doesn't have to go through a whole season of [free-agent talk]. Free agency can mess with some heads sometimes. He doesn't have to deal with that. He las a lot going for him right now."
The Nationals took the lead in the bottom of the fourth off Cardinals starter Michael Wacha. Bryce Harper had an RBI single, while Wilson Ramos drove in two runs with a single to right.
"They were huge because Wacha had a no-hitter and he is capable of doing that," Baker said. "Those were huge hits and it got us on the board. … It was kind of a momentum swing."
The Cardinals made it a one-run game against a combination of Nats relievers -- Oliver Perez, Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero -- in the top of the seventh inning, when Matt Adams hit a sacrifice fly.
But it was all Nats after that. They would score seven runs in the next two innings. Werth highlighted the scoring with his slam off reliever Dean Kiekhefer in the seventh.
"I was trying to go with a fastball in -- run him back over with a sinker and get a ground ball in that situation," Kiekhefer said. "Unfortunately, I left it down the middle for him and he put a good swing on it."
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Rivero comes up big: With the Nationals up, 3-1, the Cardinals had the bases loaded with one out when Rivero entered the game. After Adams hit his sac fly to make it a one-run game, Rivero got Randal Grichuk to fly out to left fielder Chris Heisey to end the threat.
"That was a big out that Rivero got on [Adams] and Grichuk," Baker said. "The Cardinals were threatening, and every team is going to threaten in the seventh, eighth and ninth."
Bullpen blues: When manager Mike Matheny turned to his bullpen Sunday, the Cardinals trailed only 3-2, with plenty of time left for a comeback. But Jonathan Broxton allowed Rendon's homer, followed by back-to-back singles and, after striking out Heisey, was pulled in favor of Dean Kiekhefer. The lefty walked Ben Revere, then served up Werth's grand slam. Tyler Lyons entered in the eighth and promptly gave up a Rendon single followed by a Ramos two-run shot. In total, the Cardinals' bullpen pitched two innings and allowed seven runs on eight hits, including three long balls. Matheny said right-hander Seung Hwan Oh and left-hander Kevin Siegrist were limited due to heavy usage in previous games, leaving him forced to rely on guys who don't usually pitch in high-leverage situations.
"We can't just keep using the same guys every night. We're going to blow them out," Matheny said. "We needed a couple other guys to try and come through for us, and we couldn't hold them back." More >
Big slam from Werth: The Nationals put the game out of reach in the seventh. Rendon led off with a home run and Werth hit his first career pinch-hit grand slam to make it a six-run game. It's only the second pinch-hit grand slam in Nats history. Justin Maxwell was the first to do it, on Sept. 11, 2007, against the Marlins.
Werth spent most of the game hitting in the cage. He was looking to improve his swing. He looked at some film and decided to lower his hands. It paid off as he clubbed a 1-0 pitch over the center-field fence.
"[Kiekhefer] left a heater over the middle, and I hit it out," Werth said. More >
Fourth inning stings Wacha: Wacha allowed three earned runs in six innings for his first quality start since May 3 but took the loss thanks to one bad inning. After Wacha retired the Nationals without a hit in the first three innings, Washington hit the righty hard in the fourth, with two singles and two doubles yielding three runs. Outside of the fourth, Wacha did not allow a hit.
"He had the one inning, and after that and before that he was extremely good," Matheny said. "I thought it was one of his best."
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Strasburg is nine strikeouts away from 1,000 for his career, which would make him the first Nationals pitcher to reach that mark.
The crew chief called for a review of Rendon's seventh-inning home run, which appeared to just clear the fence in right field. After a brief review, the call was confirmed, giving Rendon his fourth homer of the season.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will travel to Milwaukee for a three-game series against the Brewers, which begins Monday afternoon at 1:10 CT. For the first game, St. Louis will start Carlos Martinez, who has allowed 14 runs in 15 innings over his past three outings. Martinez has not started against the Brewers yet this year but has a 1.34 ERA against them in his career.
Nationals: Washington travels to Philadelphia for a three-game series against the Phillies starting Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tanner Roark, who pitches the first game, tossed seven scoreless innings against the Phillies at Nationals Park on April 28, but he didn't get a decision as Washington lost the game, 3-0. This will be Roark's first start at Citizens Bank Park this season.
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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Cardinals on Sunday.