Stephen Strasburg got a fly to foul territory in right field with a 95 mph 1-2 fastball. It was playable, but it kept drifting over close to the wall. Jayson Werth didn't catch it. Washington's 34-year-old right fielder tracked it to the line, but the ball bounced off his glove when he crossed into foul territory just feet from the wall, so Philadephia Phillies' right fielder Marlon Byrd got another shot at the Nationals' 25-year-old starter and a two on, two-out opportunity and took advantage of it, sending a 96 mph 2-2 heater Strasburg left out over the plate out to the right field seats on a line for a three-run home run that cleared the out-of-town scoreboard and made it 3-0 Phillies early last night in Citizens Bank Park.
Though he's struggled in the past when errors were made behind him, Strasburg said after the first game of three with the Phillies, a 5-3 comeback win, that he just left a fastball up this time.
"That inning my fastball was up a little bit," he explained, "and I just made a bad pitch."
He didn't make many bad pitches after that one, or give the Phillies too many opportunities the rest of the way.
The Phillies put two runners on in front of Cliff Lee in the fourth, but the left-handed starter grounded out to end the threat.
When Strasburg left the game after a scoreless sixth inning, he'd allowed just six hits total, a walk and the three unearned runs.
In the top of the seventh, the Nationals put a runner in scoring position at second when Strasburg's spot came in order came up so Nats' skipper Matt Williams went to a pinch hitter.
"I was able to settle down," Strasburg said, "and get my fastball location a little better and keep it close."
"I would have loved to leave him in there," Williams told reporters after the game, "but we had to try to tie the score at that point."
Strasburg was asked after the start about how his demeanor on the mound has changed and how he reacted well tonight when he hasn't necessarily in the past.
"I don't think it's really changed," the 25-year-old right-hander said. "My mindset hasn't changed just from last year to this year. You've still got to go out there and keep pitching and that's what you've got to do. Sometimes you're going to give up a couple early, but you've got eight innings left."
"He settled in," Williams said. "Really good changeups. He threw some sliders again tonight to get himself back in the count and then used -- his fastball was really good tonight, 95-96 mph, so he felt good about it."
The Phillies struck with two down in the first, but after that they didn't have many opportunities against the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick.
"He's tough," Philly skipper Ryne Sandberg said. "He's tough. He really went to his changeup. Really gave our left-handers a hard time with his changeup primarily. With the right-handed hitters he went to the breaking pitch and fastballs."
The Nationals rallied to tie the game up at 3-3 in the eighth with Denard Span doubling, stealing third and scoring on an RBI single to center by Anthony Rendon. Adam LaRoche singled to drive the go-ahead run in and Ian Desmond hit a run-scoring double to make it a 5-3 game.
Strasburg received no decision, but he kept the Nationals close enough that they could rally against Lee and then finally get to the Phillies' bullpen.
After his seventh start of the season and six innings last night, the Nats' right-hander has a 3.60 ERA and a 2.58 FIP with four home runs (0.90 HR/9) and 13 walks (2.93 BB/9) allowed and 58 Ks collected (13.05 K/9) in 40 IP.