The Nationals ended up taking care of business with a memorable 10-run fifth inning in a 17-7 win over the Reds that completed a series sweep.
Stephen Strasburg ignited the rally with a well-placed full-count single to right field off Reds starter Trevor Bauer. The hit made it 2-1 Nats and put his team on top to stay.
The right-hander was able to use his bat to provide offense when the game was still in doubt.
"He's got great stuff," Strasburg said of the matchup with Bauer. "Just trying to battle and definitely not trying to do too much. Just trying to spoil a pitch if I can, but make sure it's a strike."
Strasburg (15-5) also connected offensively in his first at-bat in the third inning with a sac bunt that moved Victor Robles to third base. Trea Turner then brought Robles home with the Nats' first run on a sacrifice fly to left field.
"You just try and make it as hard as possible on the pitcher," Strasburg said. "They are not expecting you to come through and then when it does, it's like sometimes it happens. I'm just trying to go out there and see strikes and put the ball in play."
But Strasburg was not overly thrilled with how his day on the mound unfolded. He ended up having to throw 110 pitches, and allowed four runs on seven hits with three walks, four strikeouts and three wild pitches.
"It was definitely a grind out there," Strasburg said. "Kind of all over the place with some pitches. Team came out swinging today, so they picked me up."
After the Nats went up 11-1, the Reds answered with three runs in the top of the sixth. Strasburg convinced Nationals manager Davey Martinez to leave him in to face Jesse Winker. Strasburg then walked Winker and that was it.
"It was definitely frustrating," Strasburg said of the final free pass. "But I can't really dwell on that one. I made a lot of good pitches over the course of the day. Would I have liked to finish stronger? Absolutely. But it's just one of those games. I didn't do that today. You always try to go as long as you can and as hard as you can and that's all you can do."
Martinez met Strasburg at the mound before the Winker at-bat and it looked like he was going to take him out. But Strasburg convinced the skipper to let him take a shot at Winker.
"He didn't want to come out," Martinez said. "He wanted to finish the inning, so I just told him, 'All right, you got one more hitter. Let's go. This is it.' He was fine after that. I think he was just a little upset he couldn't get through the inning. But you know what? He's competing out there, and he knows what's going on with our club, and he wanted to get through that sixth inning."
Of course, Strasburg had to wait close to 30 minutes and had two at-bats during the 10-run fifth inning onslaught, so that may have played a part in his shaky sixth frame.
Strasburg struggled with his control. In the fourth inning, the Reds managed one run on two hits. The run scored on one of three wild pitches by Strasburg in the inning. Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki had his hands full trying to block Strasburg's curveball all day.
"It's one of those things where his ball is moving all over the place and the four o'clock game time was the perfect time to have the shadows right there, which made everything great," said Suzuki. "He battled. That's what he's going to do. He's going to give you everything he's got. That's what we need. He's one of our horses, man. We ride these guys all the way to the end."