Strasburg, Burnett matching zeros early (Nats win 8-4)

The matchup between Stephen Strasburg and A.J. Burnett shaped up to be the best of this Phillies-Nats series, and through three frames, it hasn’t disappointed.

Strasburg and Burnett have matched zeros so far with both starters allowing two hits over three scoreless innings.

Strasburg has struck four, walked none and thrown 42 pitches, 30 for strikes. Burnett has answered by striking out two, walking one and throwing 39 pitches, 24 for strikes.

The Nationals put runners in scoring position in the first and third, and had Denard Span on third with two outs in the third inning following a one-out double. But Jayson Werth grounded out to end the threat and keep the game scoreless.

Update: The Nats broke through against Burnett in the fourth, scoring four times to take a 4-0 lead.

Adam LaRoche doubled to start the inning and moved up to third on a Ryan Zimmerman groundout. Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases before Danny Espinosa drove in two with a double off the right field wall.

Strasburg helped his own cause with an RBI single to center and Espinosa scored when Span grounded into a force out.

Burnett has now allowed four runs on five hits and three walks while striking out two in four innings.

So let’s see if Strasburg can make that support stand up and give his team a series win over the Phillies.

Update II: The Phillies halved the Nats’ lead to 4-2 by scoring twice in the fifth off Strasburg.

Domonic Brown singled to start the inning, moved up to second on a LaRoche error (he couldn’t corral a pickoff throw to first), and scored on Reid Brignac’s RBI double. Zimmerman showed his inexperience in left on that two-bagger - he hesitated on the fly ball, letting it fall in on the warning track, just beyond his reach.

Brignac reached third on a groundout and scored two batters later on the Nats’ second error of the inning. LaRoche made a nice stab of a hard grounder down the line with two outs, but his toss to Strasburg at first went off the pitcher’s glove.

The Nats responded immediately when Anthony Rendon led off the bottom of the frame with his eighth homer of the year, increasing the lead to 5-2.

Update III: Strasburg has put together yet another exceptional start so far, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits through six innings. He has struck out 10 and walked none while throwing 86 pitches, 63 for strikes.

Already, he has his most strikeouts since April 25 and he’s well on his way to his ninth straight quality start.

Update IV: The Nats upped their lead to 8-2 in the sixth on a Span RBI double and a Rendon two-run double. Rendon now has three RBIs in the contest while Span has two.

All eight runs are earned for Burnett, who has surrendered 10 hits, walked four and struck out three in six innings.

Update V: John Mayberry’s two-run homer off Strasburg in the seventh cut the Nats’ lead to 8-4.

But Washington will have to wait to finish off the win. The rain, which has fallen for the last several innings, picked up in the seventh and the game has been delayed.

This one has gone long enough to be official if the rain doesn’t slow down.

Strasburg’s night could be done since he’s thrown 109 pitches. He has allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits while fanning 11 and walking none in seven innings.

Update VI: The game has resumed in the bottom of the seventh after a delay of 1 hour, 48 minutes.

Both starters are done, as right-hander Justin De Fratus has taken over for Burnett, whose line holds from the one listed above.

Right-hander Aaron Barrett is warming in the bullpen, appearing primed to come in for Strasburg, who’s in line for the win.

That gives Strasburg a streak of nine straight quality starts, during which he has a 2.09 ERA.

Update VII: Barrett and left-hander Jerry Blevins each tossed a scoreless inning to finish off the 8-4 win for the Nats.

The Nats earned the series victory with their second straight win and fourth in five games. This one moved them back above .500 at 29-28, pulling them to within 1 1/2 games of first-place Atlanta and within one game of second-place Miami in the National League East.

Strasburg also moves back above .500 at 5-4, and did so with the help of his offense. Rendon had three hits, including a homer, and three RBIs. Espinosa and Span each drove in two runs as Washington finished with eight runs on 11 hits.

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