Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg notched his fourth win of the season with a nine-strikeout six-inning performance against the Rangers on Friday night in a 9-2 victory.
It did not start off well for Strasburg, however. In the second, the Rangers scored two runs with two outs. Strasburg allowed three hits in the inning and committed a fielding error, leading to two unearned runs.
"It was a good win for us," Strasburg said. "I ... had the little hiccup there in the second inning, but settled down after that. Desi (Ian Desmond) hit that big homer to give us the lead and we never looked back."
Strasburg talked about how he was a bit agitated when manager Matt Williams came out to calm him down because he felt he was all right.
"Every single guy kind of moves around a little bit," Strasburg said. "I yanked the ball a little bit. It happens. I didn't think there was no need for them to come out there and check, but I understand they are doing their job."
It was the fifth time this season Strasburg notched nine or more strikeouts in a start. He had multiple strikeouts in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings.
"Curveball was pretty good tonight, changeup was fairly effective," Strasburg said. "I think Willy (Wilson Ramos) called a great game back there. I was kind of coming in. I faced (Alex) Rios four years ago, I faced (Shin-Soo) Choo last year for like two at-bats and I didn't really know how I would necessarily attack them, just base on the scouting report. I just trusted Willy and he did a really good job.
"It's not like any other team. They kind of all do the same thing. So I just got to trust the pitch and execute it. I think they will get themselves out more times than not."
Desmond's three-run shot with two outs in the fourth gave the Nationals their first lead in a game since Sunday at 3-2.
Desmond reached the dugout and handed out volcanic high fives. Was he letting out a week of frustration?
"I think it was a party," Desmond said. "We are not having enough fun. People have been making that known to us. So what. Every time you hit one from now on it is party in there."
Left fielder Nate McLouth saw the high fives coming fast and furious, so he played defense.
"I think he got (Adam) LaRoche first," McLouth said. "So I kind of gave a little bit. I saw it coming. So I was able to put a little cushion in my shoulder there."
Strasburg said the homer by Desmond wasn't a contributing factor as to why he pitched so well.
"I really don't look into that too much," Strasburg said. "I try not to focus on the scoreboard, just keep pitching, keep it close. I think also, from the start, I think we had good at-bats, we were hitting the ball hard. I just knew (I had to) keep it close and it would be a matter of time before we got the lead."
But Desmond was happy that the offense was able to finally reward Strasburg for his consistent pitching.
"Stras has picked us up so many times over his career," Desmond said. "For us to be able to bounce back and pick him up today, it was awesome.
"I think he is coming into his own. Starting to show a little bulldog-ness out there. I don't know if that is a word, but that is what I see."
Desmond did say that the home run helped take a bit of the pressure off. A lot of people have been talking about what was wrong with the offense.
"Everybody, friends, family, teammates, everybody (was talking about it)," Desmond said. "Everyone sees it. We were going through tough times, (but) this is our job. So people have to put that in perspective, too. This is how we provide for our families. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that it is a game. But at the same time, it is tough also."
Denard Span made an aggressive baserunning move in the fifth that provided another run. Span singled to lead off the inning. Anthony Rendon grounded out to third base. On the play, Span raced to third. The throw to third was not handled by third baseman Adrian Beltre and the error committed by Colby Lewis scored Span for a 4-2 lead.
"That was good," Desmond said. "That is what we need from him. I was kind of giving him a hard time - 'What took you so long?.' But me and him kind of push each other into stolen bases. He has got a little lead on me now. Legs are starting to feel good."
McLouth's two hits came after his career-tying four hits on Wednesday against the Marlins. Does he feel like he is slowly starting to turn a corner at the plate?
"I do," McLouth said. 'When you start getting some hits to fall, you start getting some confidence and things just start rolling."
McLouth also said a win like this one, with nine runs and 15 hits, can go a long way in getting the club to exhale a bit after losing six of seven games.
"For sure, especially when you have been struggling to score runs and you come up with guys on base," McLouth said. "You want to be that guy to get it done. Sometimes it is best to relax if it was just that easy to do. It happened tonight."