Aug 28, 2013, 11:19 PM EST
Game in a nutshell: Stephen Strasburg was hoping to take aim at yet another deep start, but a 1-hour, 12-minute rain delay in the bottom of the second spoiled that plan. Both Strasburg and Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez didn’t return after the delay, so this became a battle of bullpens. The Nationals’ relief corps won out, with Craig Stammen going three innings to bridge the gap, and then (after Ryan Mattheus struggled in the sixth) Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano finishing it off. The Nationals’ 13th win in 18 games did require some clutch hits, with Jayson Werth launching a towering home run to center field to tie things up in the sixth and then Ian Desmond delivering an RBI single in the seventh to plate the go-ahead run. Because the Reds dominated the Cardinals in St. Louis, the Nationals didn’t gain any ground in the NL Wild Card race. But they remain on their best roll of the season, now 2 games over .500 for the first time since July 11.
Hitting highlight: How good has Werth been this summer? So good that opposing managers don’t even want to pitch to him anymore. One inning after his titanic homer to center, Werth came to the plate with one on and two out in the seventh. Marlins manager Mike Redmond elected to intentionally walk him and take his chances with Desmond. Big mistake. Desmond laced a two-out, RBI single to left, bringing Denard Span home with the go-ahead run. Can’t imagine many managers would have done that a couple of months ago. But the way he’s going these days, Werth has become the one guy in the Nationals lineup you don’t want to beat you.
Pitching lowlight: This has been a strange season all around for Strasburg, but it’s been an especially strange month for the right-hander. Check out his innings totals from each of his last four starts: 9, 1, 8.2, 2. Not that he could do anything about tonight’s abbreviated outing. Strasburg was cruising along, retiring six of the seven Marlins he faced and striking out two (including Stanton on four pitches). But then the rain came — with Strasburg standing in the batter’s box, of all places — and the delay proved too long to bring the starter back. Thus, Strasburg was done after two hitless innings and only 22 pitches. It does raise an interesting question, though: Would the Nationals consider bringing him back after only a couple of days off? Obviously, he’ll be fresh. It probably won’t happen, but it would be interesting.
Key stat: Ryan Mattheus has allowed nine of the last 13 major-league hitters he has faced to reach base.
Up next: The series concludes Thursday night when Gio Gonzalez takes the hill against right-hander Tom Koehler. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with a Sammy Hagar concert to follow the game.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
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