Apr 25, 2014, 11:10 PM EST
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: On the heels of an agonizing, extra-inning loss in which they simply could not buy a clutch hit, the Nationals completely flipped the script. But this lopsided victory may have come at a price, with Bryce Harper leaving early with an apparent left hand injury.
Harper appeared to hurt himself sliding into third base on a 3-run triple in the bottom of the third, a clutch hit by the struggling young star that put the Nationals up 6-0 but put a real damper on this rainy night, with everyone waiting to find out whether he is seriously injured.
Harper’s lineup-mates did plenty to add to the offensive attack. They combined for 17 hits, making this the first time since the franchise arrived in D.C. with at least 16 hits in back-to-back games. Anthony Rendon produced four of those hits, and Ian Desmond and Jose Lobaton each added three of his own to the total.
Given all that run support, Stephen Strasburg cruised against his hometown club. The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, scattering seven hits while striking out 11 en route to an easy (and much-needed) victory.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The biggest hit of the night unfortunately also resulted in the biggest loss of the night. When Harper drilled a 3-2 fastball off the out-of-town scoreboard in the bottom of the third, bringing three runs home, he motored around the bases with confidence after delivering his biggest hit since his third-deck homer two weeks ago. But upon sliding headfirst into third base, Harper immediately clutched his left hand and shook it around for a few seconds. He remained in the game and scored moments later on Jose Lobaton’s RBI single, but he didn’t look totally comfortable in left field in the top of the fourth. When the fifth inning arrived, Nate McLouth took over in left field, with Harper nowhere to be found in the Nationals’ dugout. They’ll have to hope it’s not a serious injury.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was the Strasburg start the Nationals were looking for all month. Facing his hometown club, the right-hander came right out and established his dominance from the moment he took the mound. He cruised through the game’s first two innings on 21 total pitches, striking out three. He did scatter seven hits and two walks over the rest of his outing, but he made pitches when he needed to and never let the Padres even sniff the possibility of a comeback. That’s what an ace is supposed to do when handed a big lead. Strasburg also finished strong. Sent to the mound for the top of the seventh on 101 pitches, he completed the inning on eight pitches to wrap up a stellar evening. With 11 K’s, he topped double-digit strikeouts for the 14th time in his career.
KEY STAT: Robbie Erlin has now pitched 9 1/3 career innings against the Nationals and given up 17 earned runs.
UP NEXT: After a late night delayed by rain, these two teams will be right back at the park early Saturday for a 1:05 p.m. start. Tanner Roark starts for the Nationals against Padres ace (and occasional left fielder) Andrew Cashner.
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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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