The Washington Nationals came out swinging against the Baltimore Orioles May 20, earning a 9-3 victory at Nationals Park and avoiding a sweep in the Battle of the Beltways.
Stephen Strasburg was key both on the mound and at the dish in helping the Nats snap their three-game losing streak.
Strasburg went 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored and his first career homer. His solo shot in the fourth inning followed a home run from catcher Jesus Flores that put Washington up 5-3.
Strasburg and Flores shared an even better connection on the mound. The Nats’ ace allowed one earned run over five innings while fanning eight Orioles and walking only one. The young righty did all of this despite soreness in his right bicep.
Manager Davey Johnson said the bicep soreness started in the first inning, unbeknownst to him at the time. If Johnson were aware of it, he would have pulled his star pitcher even sooner.
“I don’t care who it was, if I find out they have tightness, they’re out,” Johnson said. “I talked to him later in the game. He said it relaxed a bit, and was a lot better. I’m not as concerned when it’s in the biceps.”
Johnson said he does not expect his young pitcher to miss his next start.
Strasburg was not the only story during the win, as the Nationals showed great resilience after an early three-run deficit. The O’s scored once in the first inning, and then Bryce Harper’s dropped fly ball to start the second led to two more for Baltimore.
But from the second inning on, the Nats played first-place baseball against a first-place team. The bullpen posted zeroes after Strasburg departed, and the bats came alive for a 12-hit, nine-run afternoon.
The top of the order led the offense, with leadoff hitter Danny Espinosa and No. 2 hitter Bryce Harper combining to go four for nine, with a triple from Harper and a homer from Espinosa. The duo totaled four RBIs and five runs scored.
“We have a lot of offensive potential on this team,” Espinosa said. “The guys on this team are putting up good numbers, big numbers their whole career … it was just a little bit of a slow start, and things are staring to roll.”
The Nationals now start a stretch of NL East contests. The next 15 games will be against NL East opponents, an extremely important stretch for a team trying to get back to first place in the division.
“We got [three big series] coming up with the Phillies, and Atlanta and the Marlins,” Harper said. “So, it’s going to be a fun time for us, and it’s going to be a good week.”