Coming out swinging (here comes the bullpen)

After notching just three hits all of last night, the Nationals have three hits and two runs through their first inning tonight.

The Nats have handed Stephen Strasburg an early 2-0 lead over the Giants, with Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond both tallying RBI doubles off Giants right-hander Matt Cain.

Denard Span got it all started with a hot-shot single up the middle and, after moving into scoring position on a Bryce Harper sacrifice bunt, he came around on Zimmerman’s double to the left-center gap.

Not sure Davey Johnson is a big fan of Harper dropping down bunts in the first inning, but oh well. The young slugger seems to really enjoy keeping teams honest by laying a bunt down every now and then, especially when he’s scuffling at the plate.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, is now batting .400 with 11 RBIs in his last nine-plus games.

Two batters after Zimmerman’s double, Desmond put up one of his own, smacking a ball down the right field line that snapped an 0-for-20 drought.

A three-time All-Star, Cain hasn’t been his normal self so far this season, and the Nats have done well to get to him early. Last thing you want is a struggling starter putting up a couple zeros early on and getting some confidence building.

The Nats also have given Strasburg a nice little lead to work with, which I’m sure the right-hander appreciates.

Update: It took 31 pitches, but Strasburg put up a scoreless first, keeping the Nats’ lead at two.

The Giants got to Strasburg for two hits and two walks in the first inning, but a smoothly turned 5-4-3 double play and a Strasburg strikeout of Brandon Belt with the bases loaded helped keep the Giants scoreless.

Not the sharpest of opening frames from Strasburg, but his changeup was on point, and he still has a two-run advantage.

Update II: It’s 2-1 Nats after four, but it could be a more lopsided margin had the Nats been able to capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity in the fourth inning.

Danny Espinosa put down a sac bunt to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Roger Bernadina was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Kurt Suzuki grounded weakly back to the mound, and Cain got the force at home to cut down the lead runner. He then got Strasburg swinging to end the threat.

The Nats have had six baserunners through four, but missed a chance to turn some of those runners into runs.

Meanwhile, Strasburg has been working out of the stretch a ton tonight, as he’s put the leadoff man on in three of his four innings and has put eight Giants on base. He’s been able to work out of trouble, though, and has seemed to settle in a bit after a rough first couple innings.

Strasburg’s fastball command hasn’t been great and he’s thrown 74 pitches through four innings. But he still leads as we go to the fifth.

Update III: Strasburg clearly didn’t have his best stuff in the first two innings. He was battling himself, allowed four hits, walked two hitters and was lucky to surrender just a run.

Since then, Strasburg has only gotten stronger as the game has gone on, and he’s now through six impressive innings, still keeping the Nats on top 2-1.

The changeup has been absolutely money for Strasburg tonight. He’s struck out five, four of which have come on the change, which is diving hard out of the zone.

He’s at 97 pitches through six but isn’t done just yet. He’ll get to take the mound for the seventh, trying to match Cain, who has also bounced back from a slow start and is through seven strong frames.

Update IV: Strasburg’s night will end after seven innings of one-run ball and 108 pitches. He wasn’t too sharp early, fought through it and delivered a gem against a tough team.

He’ll hand it over to Tyler Clippard, who will work the bottom of the eighth after the Nats missed another chance to tack on in the top half. Span’s leadoff double went to waste, and it’s still 2-1 Nats with six defensive outs still needed.

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