Strasburg rebounds, still on the hook (Nats swept by Cardinals, fall below .500)

It took Stephen Strasburg an inning to get settled in. Once he did, he was almost unhittable.

Strasburg allowed three runs on three hits and a walk in the first inning, but in his final six frames, the Nationals ace allowed just two hits, holding the Cardinals at bay.

Overall, Strasburg struck out seven and walked just one. He threw 110 pitches, 76 for strikes.

At one point, Strasburg set down 10 Cardinals hitters in a row. He struck out two in his final inning of work, a 1-2-3 sixth.

When Strasburg is able to pump first-pitch strikes, he's incredibly effective. He did so to just three of seven batters faced in the first inning, but was better the rest of the way out, attacking hitters and keeping them off-balance.

The right-hander has also scored the only run of the day for the Nats, which hints at the bigger issue here.

The Nationals have yet again gotten almost nothing offensively, and have left two runners on base in both the sixth and seventh innings.

In the seventh, the Nats put runners on the corners with one out. Steve Lombardozzi pinch-hit for Strasburg but struck out on a 3-2 pitch. Jhonatan Solano, moving with the pitch, was caught stealing by a good two feet, and just like that, the rally was over.

The Nats have six hits, one run and are now 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Drew Storen is on for the eighth with the Nats still trailing 3-1.

Update: It gets worse. A Matt Holliday tapper off the plate turned into an infield single that plated another run, making it a 4-1 Cardinals lead in the eighth.

With one out and runners on second and third, Drew Storen got the softly-hit groundball he wanted, but it took a high hop off the plate and Ian Desmond had no play anywhere. Matt Carpenter scored and Holliday was safe at first.

The Cardinals will take a three-run lead into the bottom of the eighth with high-throwing righty Trevor Rosenthal coming in.

Update II: Jayson Werth's solo homer off Rosenthal in the eighth brought the Nats to within 4-2, but after Bryce Harper walked to bring the tying run to the plate, two Nats failed to put the bat on the ball.

Adam LaRoche was called upon to pinch-hit for Tyler Moore, giving LaRoche a lefty-vs.-righty advantage against Rosenthal, but LaRoche struck out on three pitches. He is now 0-for-his-last-11 with eight strikeouts and has gone down on strikes in five straight trips to the plate.

Ian Desmond then followed by also striking out on three pitches. Inning over.

The Cardinals lead 4-2 going to the ninth.

Update III: That'll do it. The Nats lose to the Cardinals 4-2, wrapping up St. Louis' three-game sweep.

The Nationals have lost nine of their last 12 and fall below .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2011 season.

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