Nats break out in sixth

Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Nationals in the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth. First, Stephen Strasburg got the quick inning he’d been seeking all night, striking out two of the three batters he faced and expending just 12 pitches. Then, the Nationals brought four runs across the plate in the top of the sixth, ensuring Strasburg would have a shot at his fourth big-league win. They currently lead the Marlins 4-0 through six.

A couple keys to the sixth-inning rally: Nyjer Morgan punching an outside 2-1 fastball to left for a leadoff single, and Adam Dunn laying off a couple low curveballs to work a one-out walk. Those two things helped load the bases for Josh Willingham, who had struck out twice already. Willingham punched an hanging Ricky Nolasco slider to right for a three-run double, going to third on the throw home to try and get Dunn. He then scored on Ivan Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly. Give Willingham credit for punishing a mistake after a couple bad at-bats.

Given the extra space, Strasburg cruised through the sixth, throwing his 99th pitch of the night to freeze Cody Ross for his seventh strikeout. It was the most pitches Strasburg has thrown this season, and on a night where he needed 34 pitches to get through the first inning, he laid down five more shutout innings in 65 pitches.

Drew Storen was warming for the Nationals in the sixth, so it’s likely he’ll pitch the seventh.