Strasburg laboring against patient Cards lineup (game tied 2-2)

ST. LOUIS - On a muggy Monday night at Busch Stadium, the last thing the Nationals needed was a short outing from Stephen Strasburg.

Alas, that’s exactly what they appear to be getting.

Though he has allowed only two runs so far, Strasburg has thrown a whopping 76 pitches through three innings against a Cardinals lineup that is making the Nats right-hander work as hard as he has all season.

Strasburg-Bears-Down-Gray-Sidebar.jpgStrasburg needed 38 pitches just to complete the bottom of the first, with four of St. Louis’ first six batters reaching base, two of them scoring on Marcell Ozuna’s 412-foot homer to left-center.

That’s one of only two hits Strasburg has allowed, but he has issued four walks and labored through long at-bats with just about every member of a Cardinals lineup that has fouled off 22 pitches already.

At this rate, Strasburg may not be able to make it beyond the fifth inning, putting added strain on the Nationals bullpen in the opener of a tough three-game series with the Central-leading Cardinals.

The Nats lineup had virtually no success in its first crack against Dakota Hudson; Anthony Rendon was the lone batter to reach base, via a two-out single in the first. But that group strung together a two-out rally in the fourth to at least plate one run.

With the bases loaded, Victor Robles lined the first pitch he saw from Hudson to left field for an RBI single. Juan Soto scored from third, but Asdrúbal Cabrera was thrown out trying to score from second, ending in the inning with the Nationals trailing 2-1.

Update: They’re not trailing anymore. Rendon, as he has done so often this season, delivered a big home run in a big moment. His sixth-inning blast to left-center was his 34th of the year and leaves him with 119 RBIs. More importantly, it has tied this game 2-2 in the sixth. The game, however, is now in the hands of the Nationals bullpen. Strasburg finished strong, but he’s pulled with 99 pitches in five innings.

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