NEW YORK - Stephen Strasburg may not be pitching in next week’s All-Star Game as a precaution for the back injury that sidelined him late last month, but the right-hander sure looks healthy and dominant when he does take the mound these days.
On the heels of his 6 2/3-innings of no-hit ball against the Reds on Sunday, Strasburg picked up right where he left off tonight against the Mets, tossing seven innings of two-hit ball to lead the Nationals to a much-needed, 3-1 victory at Citi Field.
Strasburg was in peak form throughout, allowing his only run of the night on a solo homer in the fifth. He finished with a flourish, battling through two long at-bats in the seventh before finally getting Rene Rivera (representing the tying run) to ground out on his 108th pitch of the game.
The Nats bullpen then finished off what Strasburg started, with Blake Treinen inducing a huge double play from Juan Lagares to escape an eighth-inning jam and Jonathan Papelbon pitching the ninth for his 18th save in 20 attempts.
In the wake of a wild, 9-7 loss last night in the opener of this four-game series, the Nationals bounced back, and the team increased its lead over the Mets back to four games, with two more to play this weekend before the All-Star break.
Strasburg had been selected to represent the Nationals in his hometown of San Diego on Tuesday night, but he and the club decided earlier today he will not pitch in the Midsummer Classic, not wanting to risk any recurrence of the upper back strain that forced him to the disabled list. Teammate Max Scherzer will replace him on the active National League roster at Petco Park.
Strasburg took the mound late tonight after a 37-minute rain delay, but he was in control from the outset, pitching around a one-out walk of Curtis Granderson in a scoreless bottom of the first. He struck out a pair in the second, then another pair in the third.
By the time he pitched around a second Granderson walk in the fourth, Strasburg had himself quite a streak going. Including his previous start five days ago against the Reds, the right-hander had tossed 10 2/3 consecutive innings without surrendering a hit since returning from the DL.
That streak finally came to an end in the bottom of the fifth, when Asdrubal Cabrera hammered a 3-2 slider to right field for a solo homer, but that was just about the only mistake Strasburg made all night.
The righty pitched with a lead throughout, thanks to the Nats’ early offense against Noah Syndergaard. Clint Robinson, filling in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman at first base, clubbed a two-run homer in the top of the second. Daniel Murphy then drove in Jayson Werth with an RBI double in the third to make it 3-0.
Syndergaard, who was trying to pitch through bone spurs in his elbow, wound up departing in the fifth with his fastball velocity diminishing. The Mets announced his departure as a result of “arm fatigue”, and said it was not elbow-related.