Strasburg, Desmond and Cabrera on 8-1 defeat of D-backs

The Nationals steamrolled the Diamondbacks 8-1 Tuesday thanks to big offense from their double-play combination of shortstop Ian Desmond and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera.

Desmond went 3-for-4 with three singles and four RBIs while Cabrera had a game-changing three-run double in a six-run third inning that broke open the game.

cabrera-smile-gray-running-sidebar.jpgWith the bases loaded and no one out in that explosive frame, Cabrera was just trying to get the run home from third, but instead got so much more with a good swing.

“Just try to get one in. Hit a fly ball to get one in, got a better swing in and cleared the (bases),” Cabrera said.

Desmond collected three hits highlighted by two-run singles in the third and the sixth.

“Yeah, it was one of those nights where I didn’t really hit it super well but I got some hits,” Desmond said. “Fortunately for me, the guys were on base in front of me. They’ve been doing that all year long.

“I’ve been trying to do a better job of getting on there for Bryce (Harper). I know it’s not fun hitting with no one on base. I’m working my butt off. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it, but I’m trying to get on base for him.”

Cabrera now has 15 games under his belt on the senior circuit and senses a little difference from his time in the American League.

“I think the game is a little quicker. I think that’s the only difference,” Cabrera said. “The pitcher throws more fastballs, too, a little. They throw hard, too. They use more fastballs. It’s just baseball to me.

“I think they bring me here to help with the team. Every game, I try to do my best and help the team to win.”

He also believes he is developing good chemistry with Desmond on their work around second base.

“He’s a great shortstop and I feel really comfortable at second, too,” Cabrera said. “I think we know how to work together to (get) everything done. I think we do a great job and I help us to do what we do now.”

Desmond said other players and even umpires tell him what a great pickup Cabrera will be for this team, and he has demonstrated his fielding prowess with behind-the-back flips and sliding grabs.

“The reputation he has around the league, what the guys say when they come to second base, what the umpires have to say about him is all great,” Desmond said. “I know me, personally, when I establish myself in the league more, I want to be known as professional and that’s what he is. He’s what you strive to be as a ballplayer. That’s just respected and appreciated and we definitely appreciate him here.”

Desmond said they were able to get going against the Diamondbacks because starter Stephen Strasburg (10-10) didn’t give much up after a first-inning solo homer to David Peralta.

“It was good to see Stephen pitch as well as he did,” Desmond said. “He was throwing his fastball really well tonight, down in the zone. (Jose Lobaton) called a great game. I think Strasburg having four K’s, it seemed like he threw all strikes, putting the ball in play, that helps the offense and he did a great job.”

Desmond was impressed that Strasburg got within three outs of a complete game, but doesn’t believe their ace was forced to go long because of a potentially overworked bullpen.

“I don’t necessarily think that Stephen went out there thinking he had to go eight tonight,” Desmond said. “The way Stephen pitched, I hope it’s indicative of what we are going to see in the future. He’s been great a lot in his career, but tonight was one of those games where it was really fun to watch.

“Our bullpen is so resilient. I feel like they’ve had their back up against the wall a couple times throughout different stretches throughout the year and they’ve always stepped up.”

Strasburg said the game went as scripted, but said a large potion of credit goes to Lobaton and the defense behind him.

“I guess its what the doctor ordered,” Strasburg said. “I just wanted to go out there and build off the last start and keep doing the things that I’ve been trying to work on. Loby called a great game. We played great defense and we hit great as well.

“Obviously, (Lobaton’s) been calling great games for me. He’s been working really hard back there, getting a lot of borderline calls in my favor.”

Strasburg recorded his 198th strikeout of the season, a new career-high, but finished with only four punchouts on the game.

“I pitched them the same way I do everybody,” Strasburg said. “I think they are a team that doesn’t strike out much. They are going to put the ball in play. I think that worked in my favor tonight.”

And getting to the 198 strikeouts plateau wasn’t on Strasburg’s to-do list.

“Doesn’t mean much to me to be honest,” he said. “Just trying to make good pitches and just execute, be smart. Just hit the glove.”

Did having a big lead early change his approach?

“To an extent,” Strasburg said. “I want to go out there and still pitch to guys. But if I fall behind for some reason, you’ve got to challenge them. You can’t be just giving up walks.”

One major key that did help him to a solid outing was his ability to move his pitches around the zone to keep the hitters guessing.

“It’s a little easier for them to square up a fastball when I’m trying to throw it in the same spot, majority of the time,” Strasburg said. “If I can move it around - inside, outside, up and down - I think over the course of the game it just helps my command.”

The eight-game winning streak is the Nationals’ longest of the season and matches their longest winning streak from the 98-win 2012 division crown season.

“I think we’ve developed great chemistry over the course of the season,” Strasburg said. “I think guys are starting to figure out kind of what (Matt Williams) put on the board in spring training - if you kind of just stay in your lane and do your job, you can go out there and beat a lot of teams.”

“I think we’ve been confident from the beginning,” Desmond said. “Things are starting to come together. Mike (Rizzo) did a great job with some of the additions. I wouldn’t say confidence is the word. I think we are just coming together and we’ve kind of established our way, I guess you’d say.”

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