Strasburg logs vintage performance as Nats shut out Marlins 5-0

MIAMI - Right-hander Stephen Strasburg lifted the Nationals past the Marlins 5-0 with a vintage performance, a much-needed salvage of the third game of their series at Marlins Park.

Strasburg pitched a season-high eight shutout innings, striking out a season-high 11 batters. He now has 41 games in his career with 10 or more strikeouts.

Plus, he added another page to the record books by reaching 1,260 1/3 innings pitched with the Nats, a new club record, passing left-hander Gio Gonzalez’s previous mark of 1,253 1/3 frames.

Meanwhile, in the dugout, Max Scherzer had to dodge a foul ball off the bat of Lewis Brinson late in the game. He was able to duck in time, but said that in the process he “tweaked” his left intercostal. He said he hopes to feel better in a day or two

Both Strasburg (2-1) and Marlins losing pitcher Trevor Richards (0-3) appeared to be able to take advantage of the shadows created by the rare roof opening on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park. This is the first series since April 2013 that the roof was open for the Nationals in Miami.

Adam Eaton and Ryan Zimmerman talked after the game how difficult it was to see the ball travel from sunlight to shadow.

“It’s an enormous factor,” Zimmerman said. “It’s awful. I mean I don’t understand why you would play a game like that if you don’t have to. But I hope the fans enjoyed the open-air experience. It was great for us. Awesome.”

“I think it’s more of a safety thing than anything else,” Eaton said. “You saw a lot of swings and misses today. A lot of swings, kind of the sense not seeing the ball well. Somebody is going to hang their nose out on a curveball that doesn’t break and not be able to see it because you can’t pick up the spin.”

Zimmerman-Trots-Red@MIA-sidebar.jpgDespite the difficulty in seeing pitches, Zimmerman homered twice. He has reached 999 RBIs in his career and has now hit safely in 10 of his last 15 starts.

The two homers marked his 26th career multi-homer performance, and the first time he pulled off the feat since Aug. 11, 2018. The offensive outburst was big for Zimmerman after scuffling to a .182 average in the first 17 games.

“Obviously, I go through times like this all the time, and whenever it happens early in the season it’s magnified because your stats aren’t what they are,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve always been kind of a streaky hitter, and I have a week or two weeks where I don’t produce that well and it’s frustrating. You just got to grind through it. So just keep doing the work, keep going out there, and hopefully, we have more games like today.”

Brian Dozier also homered to help the Nats salvage the final game of the series and improve their overall record to 10-10 as they depart for Denver and the final leg of the six-game road trip.

Strasburg was getting swings and misses by mixing his lethal curveball, changeup and two fastballs. The strikeouts started to pile up when he struck out the side in the fifth inning.

Marlins leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson struck out four times, three times versus Strasburg.

The right-hander surrendered just two hits and walked only two. He threw 104 pitches, 67 for strikes, and is now 18-7 in 32 career starts against the Marlins.

“I have a lot of trust in my curveball,” Strasburg said. “I get myself in trouble when I don’t go to it enough. It really kind of sets up my other pitches and keeps them from ambushing as much off my fastball early in the count.”

Nats manager Davey Martinez said Strasburg was that good because he mixed every one of his pitches and focused on the curveball as one of his go-to pitches.

“He kept the ball down for the most part of the day. His changeup was really good,” Martinez said. “He was throwing his curveball for strikes and his fastball, he located his fastball really well.

“(His curveball) opens up both sides of the plate, it really does. He was really, really good. I know he pitched good in New York, but he was just as good today.”

Howie Kendrick provided a line-drive sacrifice fly to deep center field to score another run for the Nats. Kendrick replaced Anthony Rendon in the lineup Sunday because Rendon was nursing a sore and swollen left elbow after being a hit by a pitch in Saturday’s contest. Martinez had no update after the game on Rendon’s elbow.

Zimmerman’s second homer and a Wilmer Difo RBI single finished off the scoring in the ninth.

“I think we’ve been playing some good baseball. We just have to continue to grind them out and you get better and just play good baseball,” Zimmerman said. “It doesn’t matter who you are playing, everyone says this team over here is going to lose this many games and all that, but they are a big league baseball team with some talented young kids. We have to go out there and play good baseball and beat you. So, I hate when people say that about big league teams.”

The eight innings by Strasburg seemingly provided Martinez the opportunity to rest his beleaguered bullpen. Kyle Barraclough arrived for the ninth and quickly notched a pair of strikeouts.

But Barraclough then walked two batters, so Martinez decided to go to Sean Doolittle to get the final out. Castro singled but Miguel Rojas flew out to right field to end the game.

“(T)he offense, we hit some big home runs,” Martinez said. “It was good to see Zim swing the bat the way he did, Dozier gets a home run and then we pick up another run or two late. But the boys played well today.”

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