Strasburg delivers, Harper and Rendon homer for series sweep

MIAMI - Right-hander Stephen Strasburg ran his scoreless string to 23 innings against the Marlins, and Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon slammed solo homers, as the Nationals won 5-2 to sweep the three-game series.

The Nationals have now won 11 straight meetings against the Marlins and this was their third road series sweep of the season.

Suddenly, the Nationals are 29-22, seven games above .500 for the first time this season. They are only one game back of the first-place Braves in the National League East. After their three games in Baltimore that start tomorrow, the Nats play four games in Atlanta starting Thursday.

“It’s still fairly early,” Strasburg said. “I think ... we went from a pretty old team to a pretty young team pretty fast and it’s great to see these guys come up.”

“The job (Pedro Severino is) doing is really good. And (Wilmer) Difo’s energy every single day has been awesome to watch. Even (Juan) Soto coming up and showing that this game at this level isn’t that big of an adjustment. It’s just a testament to the organization and the depth that we have.

“I think it’s great that these guys are stepping up the way they are and they’re getting valuable experience. It should be interesting when these guys come back because we should have a lot of options.”

Strasburg has won seven straight decisions against Miami, posting a 1.13 ERA in those outings. The 23 consecutive scoreless innings against the Marlins date to April 3, 2017.

Manager Davey Martinez, like Strasburg, doesn’t want to get head of himself, so his focus is on the Nats’ Memorial Day afternoon matchup against the Orioles.

“For me, it’s about getting to that next day,” said Martinez. “We are playing really well. We just got to come out tomorrow and do the same thing. I don’t look ahead, I look to tomorrow. Put the best nine guys out there to start the game and see what we got.”

Strasburg (6-4) struck out eight over five innings. He allowed only three hits, no runs and walked two. He recorded his first three strikeouts with his changeup, two with his curveball.

“Yeah, I liked him,” said Martinez. “They fouled off a lot of really good pitches. He got 103 pitches in five innings and I thought that was plenty. I really did. The last couple of outings we asked him to go 110, 112, 115 (pitches). He did well. He kept us in the game. The bullpen did outstanding.”

Starlin Castro struck out the first three times he faced Strasburg. With two on and two outs in the fifth, Castro looked at a 97 mph fastball on the outside edge for a called third strike.

The Nationals pounded out eight extra base hits: four doubles, two triples and two homers. It is the most extra base hits they have had in a game since nine against the Padres May 21.

The Nats built a 5-0 lead in the middle innings.

Early on, Michael A. Taylor laced a triple in the second inning. But the Nats were unable to get him home.

Rendon-Dugout-Congrats-Sidebar.jpgIn the fourth, Rendon turned on a 91-mph four-seam fastball from Elieser Hernandez and deposited it deep over the left field wall to make 1-0. The blast came on a 3-1 count and was his fifth of the season. The Nats have homered in a season-high matching seven consecutive games.

In the fifth, Difo tripled. It marked the first time this season the Nats tripled more than once in a game. Strasburg singled to right field past a drawn-in infield to score Difo to make it 2-0.

In the sixth, facing reliever Jarlin Garcia, Harper led off with a towering blast just inside the right field foul pole for his 16th homer of the season to make 3-0.

Trea Turner was finally rewarded for scorching the ball all day with an RBI double off of Garcia in the seventh. Harper added a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 5-0 Nationals.

Harper finished 1-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. But he also struck out seven times in the series and eight times in the three-game series.

“Strikeouts don’t really bother me,” said Harper. “It’s swinging at bad pitches. If I ground out, it’s the same thing as a strikeout. Just get to get a good pitch over the plate and try to do some damage.”

Martinez said there is no cause for alarm with his slugger. He just needs Harper to concentrate on each at-bat.

“That was a bomb,” Martinez said of Harper’s NL-leading 16th homer. “You know we are going to get that from Bryce. He’s going to hit his home runs. We really want him to take his walks and just let the game come to him and not chase the game. That’s the biggest thing for him.

“We need him. He knows that. I told him, ‘You just do your part.’ Everybody else do their part. We’ll be fine. He’s just missing pitches. He really is. For him to come out there, especially against a left-handed pitcher, and hit the ball like that, it’s a good sign.”

Justin Miller tossed a convincing 1-2-3 sixth for the Nats, including a strikeout. He has retired all four batters he has faced in his first two games, with two punchouts.

J.T. Realmuto delivered a run-scoring double off of Wander Suero in the seventh. Trevor Gott notched the final out of the frame on a groundout to first base. Justin Bour hit a solo shot off of Sammy SolĂ­s in the eighth. Brandon Kintzler tossed a scoreless ninth inning for his second save.

Notes: The Nationals are now 17-8 on the road and are 17-4 when they score five or more runs. Soto has three doubles in his last two games.

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