Strasburg homers and fires complete-game shutout in 4-0 win

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg fired a complete-game shutout for the Nationals against the Marlins in their 4-0 series-sweeping clincher Wednesday at Nats Park. It was the Nats' first series sweep of the Marlins since 2014.

Strasburg connected for the first run of the game with a solo homer, finishing 2-for-4 at the plate.

Strasburg was efficient: 110 pitches over nine innings works out to 12.2 per frame. Strasburg was also getting guys out with all of his pitches: fastball, curveball, changeup and slider.

He allowed only six hits, his only walk was intentional and he struck out eight. The complete-game shutout was his first since Aug. 11, 2013 against the Phillies.

sidebar-Strasburg-white.jpg"He had great command of all his pitches, namely his fastball, in and out. He had a good curveball and slider and changeup," said manager Dusty Baker. "He was very determined from the beginning. You could just sort of tell, the look on his face. He had a great day. He hit. He pitched."

Catcher Jose Lobaton agreed with Baker that Strasburg commanded all his pitches for nine innings. He faced three batters in four of his first six innings.

"I feel like every pitch today was real good," said Lobaton. "Curveball, fastball, changeup was working any count. I feel like he was more aggressive in making (them) swing the bat. I didn't know we got like 70-something pitches in the seventh. I didn't know that. I was like, 'Wow, they've been swinging the bat.' That was a key today."

Strasburg has been known his entire career for a fastball that could just get guys out. But he has learned recently to not rely too much on that pitch each time he needed an out.

"I tried to add a couple pitches," Strasburg said. "Throw a couple pitches early that produces quick outs instead of just being too heavy on the fastball. I think across the league that's what's happening. As far as actually getting it, I really don't know, I'm just trying to hit my spots."

The major focus for Nationals pitchers this series was figuring out a way to slow down Giancarlo Stanton. He came into the series with 50 homers. He was held to just one homer in three games to get to 51 overall.

"It's a great challenge," Strasburg said of facing Stanton, who went 0-for-4 Wednesday. "It's probably going to be a lot more challenges down the road. Just kind of do it enough times and he's a true professional so just go out there and give it everything you got against him."

One at-bat Stanton got close to hitting one out against Strasburg. In the sixth, Strasburg and Lobaton managed to get him to ground out to Trea Turner for the second out.

"Stras did get away with one pitch that he hit to Trea," Baker said. "That ball was right down the middle and a little bit up. Loby came in and said, 'Hey, we got away with one.' Sometimes, it's just your day. I've seen that upon occasion when it's a guy's day. Today was his day for pitching, hitting, getting away with one on Stanton. It was his day today."

"That was a mistake," Lobaton confirmed. "Not supposed to throw the ball right there. I asked after that how hard he hit the ball, it was like 115 mph. Yeah, he should've hit that one far, but sometime that happen. Sometime you hit the ball hard and you hit it right in the hands and that was pretty good for us."

The game was a pitchers' duel for the first four innings until Strasburg stepped to the plate against Adam Conley in the fifth and promptly smacked a solo homer to give the Nats a 1-0 lead. Lobaton loved the homer.

"Oppo? Wow! I think that was impressive," Lobaton said. "I think that was special. As soon as I saw that, I said this is going to be pretty good today. He got a base hit and then he got a homer and then he got the game. That's pretty special day for him."

Strasburg's second homer of the season and third of his career surprised him.

"We haven't had BP in such a long time, I really didn't have high expectations," Strasburg smiled. "I haven't picked up a bat really since (interleague), probably since my start in San Diego. I haven't picked up a bat, so I don't know, sometimes you're just lucky."

Conley later in the inning allowed a solo shot to Wilmer Difo. That was all the runs he gave up in six innings - his best career showing against the Nats. He was 1-3 with an 8.22 ERA against the Nats coming into Wednesday's start.

For Strasburg, it was a vintage performance - his second career complete-game shutout. His ERA is now 2.90, which is fourth in the National League. His 11-4 record matched his win total from 2015 (11-7).

"Take it one inning at a time," Strasburg said. "You can't sit here and after the first inning and think, 'I'm going to go nine today.' The game's way too hard. Just try and break up the game and take it one pitch at a time and go as long as you can until they take the ball out.

"I felt good. I think Loby just called a really good game. There was a couple times where I had to shake, but it was immediately kinda knew where I wanted to go with it. It was fun just throwing it down and away and letting him (work)."

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