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Nationals 8-2 over Mets: Stephen Strasburg struggles early, turns it around in NY

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Stephen Strasburg struggled early, but settled in and the Washington Nationals' hitters provided support, battling back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 5-2 lead after six. Jacob deGrom was out in the sixth and the Nats took the series opener in Citi Field. 8-2 final.

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5. Strasburg loves NY: Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg allowed four of the eight runs the Miami Marlins scored in an 8-0 win in his last start before taking the mound tonight in Flushing, Queens, NY's Citi Field against the New York Mets. Giancarlo Stanton hit an RBI double in the fourth inning which was followed one out later by an RBI single by Justin Bour, who drove in one of the two runs the Fish scored on the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick in the sixth.

Strasburg gave up eight hits, two walks and the four earned runs, throwing a total of 95 pitches, 60 of them for strikes before he was lifted.

"A couple of balls just out [of reach] of guy's dives and that's the way it bounces sometimes," Matt Williams said when asked to assess Strasburg's start.

"Much better fastball today than last time out, but not as much control of the changeup and curveball today. When he's got all three of them working he's tough." - Matt Williams on Stephen Strasburg vs Miami

"I thought he was okay. Much better fastball today than last time out, but not as much control of the changeup and curveball today. When he's got all three of them working he's tough.

"Today he really only had one of them that he could rely on. So, not bad though, gave us a chance."

With his offspeed stuff not working, Williams explained, Strasburg was left with his fastball, which the Marlins were jumping on early in some key at bats.

"With any pitcher it leads to that," Williams said. "If he doesn't have feel for it, he doesn't want to get behind for sure. But I thought he had a really good fastball. 95-to-96 mph fastball today. Just wasn't enough for us."

The outing in Miami left the 26-year-old right-hander with a (1-2) record, a 4.88 ERA, a 2.92 FIP, seven walks (2.63 BB/9) and 23 Ks (8.63 K/9) in 24 IP after four starts this season, over which opposing hitters put up a combined .317/.373/.369 line.

For his fifth start, however, Strasburg was back in Citi Field, where he was (3-1) in his five previous starts before tonight's, with a 1.97 ERA, nine walks (2.53 BB/9) and 44 Ks (12.38 K/9) in 32 IP, holding Mets' hitters to a combined .171/.236/.306 line.

Strasburg's sixth career start in New York (NL) began with a swinging K on a 96 mph full-count fastball to Mets' leadoff man Curtis Granderson. Juan Lagares singled to right on a 90 mph 2-2 slider. Strasburg "missed" with a 2-2 fastball outside to Lucas Duda, and a 3-2 heater inside. Ball four. Michael Cuddyer stepped in with two on and one out and and took a 95 mph 1-2 fastball inside for a called strike three. Daniel Murphy lined a 3-1 pitch to right to end a 27-pitch frame.

Wilmer Flores doubled to left, by a diving Yunel Escobar at third, on an 0-2 change from Strasburg with one out in the Mets' second. Catcher Kevin Plawecki hit the second straight double, driving a 95 mph 2-2 fastball inside out to right-center to bring Flores in and make it 1-0 NY. Jacob deGrom popped out to foul territory off third for the second out of the inning, but Curtis Granderson shot a two-out single through second to bring Plawecki in and make it 2-0 Mets. Juan Lagares K'd swinging at an 0-2 fastball to end a 25-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 52 total after two.

An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 third ended when Daniel Murphy failed to check his swing on an 0-2 fastball up in the zone, leaving Strasburg at 63 pitches overall after three.

Given a 3-2 lead to work with, Strasburg retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the fourth, striking Wilmer Flores out with a 2-2 bender and Kevin Plawecki out with a 96 mph 0-2 heater for the second and third outs of a 13-pitch frame that left him at 76 pitches overall after four.

Jacob deGrom took a 1-2 fastball for a called strike three and Strasburg's third straight K. Curtis Granderson spit on a 2-2 curve in the dirt, but flew out to the track in left-center on a 3-2 fastball for out no.2. Juan Lagares battled for seven pitches before flying out to right to end an 18-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that left Strasburg at 94 pitches.

Lucas Duda singled to center to start the Mets' sixth, took second on a single by Michael Cuddyer and third on a flyout to right by Daniel Murphy. That was it for Strasburg...

Stephen Strasburg's Line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 100 P, 65 S, 3/3 GO/FO.

4. deGrom loves NY too: Jacob deGrom held the Nationals to six hits, two walks and two runs in his first outing of the season back on April 8th in the nation's capital, taking a loss in Washington's 2-1 win in spite of a solid 92-pitch effort on the mound. Ryan Zimmerman's two-run home run in the first provided the only runs the Nats needed.

Zimmerman's home run was the only one deGrom allowed in his first three starts before the New York Yankees hit three out off the 26-year-old right-hander last time out in Yankee Stadium.

After the rough outing against NY's AL team, the second-year major leaguer was left with a (2-2) record in four starts this season, over which he'd put up a 2.96 ERA, a 4.36 FIP, five walks (1.85 BB/9) and 19 Ks (7.03 K/9) in 24 ⅓ IP.

All the earned runs he allowed in those outings came on the road, but tonight he was back in Citi Field, where the 2010 Mets' 9th Round pick had a streak of 14 ⅓ scoreless innings pitched going when he took the mound against the Nationals for the second time this season.

Over his last eight starts in the Mets' home, deGrom was (7-0) with a 0.95 ERA and 64 Ks in 56 ⅔ IP.

deGrom's third outing of the year in NY began with a scoreless, 19-pitch, 1-2-3 first. A 16-pitch, 1-2-3 second gave him 16 ⅓ straight scoreless in the Mets home. 35 pitches total after two. A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 third gave deGrom nine straight outs to start the game and 17 ⅓ straight scoreless in Citi Field. 48 total.

deGrom's bid for a perfect game ended with a leadoff walk to Denard Span in the top of the fourth, and an error by Wilmer Flores at short on a potential double play grounder off Yunel Escobar's bat put two on with no one out in front of Jayson Werth, who lined an RBI single to center to cut the Mets' lead in half, 2-1. Bryce Harper took the second walk of the inning to load them up in front of Ryan Zimmerman, whose sac fly to center tied things up at 2-2. Wilson Ramos grounded out to short to bring Werth in from third and make it 3-2 Nats after three and a half in NY. 25-pitch frame for deGrom, 73 total after four.

deGrom bounced back from the long fourth with a quick, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that left him at 82 total after five.

Yunel Escobar singled to center to start the sixth and took third on a one-out double to right by Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with two on and one out and hit an RBI infield single to second base. 4-2 Nats. Wilson Ramos followed with an RBI single to center to bring Harper in and make it 5-2 and end deGrom's night.

• Jacob deGrom's Line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 93 P, 60 S, 6/5 GO/FO.

3. The Nationals love Citi Field too: The Washington Nationals went 15-4 against the New York Mets last season, and in Citi Field, the Nats were 9-1 on the year, thoroughly dominating the head-to-head matchup between the two teams and outscoring the Mets 95-52 overall. Mets' skipper Terry Collins told reporters today that they had to turn things around this season, which they did in some part by taking two of three in the first series of the year.

The Mets came into the four-game set having lost two straight though they won six of their last 10, and they held a 4.5-game lead in the NL East with a 15-7 record. The Nationals started the series six games back, in fourth in the division, but coming off back-to-back wins over the Braves in Atlanta in which they scored 26 runs total.

"This game is a lot mental, and if you're not swinging it good and you don't feel good at the plate, you tend to press a little bit, you tend to get outside of yourselves..." -Matt Williams on Nationals' confidence building

Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked after the 13-4 win last night in the series finale in Turner Field if his team turned a corner offensively in Atlanta and how important it was for the defending NL East champs to have some confidence that they could put together big numbers on offense.

"It's a big part of it," Williams said of the importance of confidence.

"This game is a lot mental, and if you're not swinging it good and you don't feel good at the plate, you tend to press a little bit, you tend to get outside of yourselves and try to do things you're not necessarily capable of doing.

So it plays a big role for us, for any team."

Would that confidence carry over from Atlanta to New York?

The Nationals found themselves down 2-0 early tonight after an RBI double by Mets' catcher Kevin Plawecki and an RBI single by Curtis Granderson in the second, but a couple of walks, an error, an RBI single and a sac fly in the fourth tied things up at 2-2 and an RBI groundout by Wilson Ramos put the Nats ahead, 3-2.

The Nats added two more in the sixth for a 5-2 lead and took the series opener in New York in what ended up an 8-2 win.

2. Turning Point(s): Stephen Strasburg started out throwing heat to the Mets' hitters, but a few close calls on balls by home plate umpire Tom Halion, back-to-back doubles and an RBI single in the second and two long innings on the mound had the Nats' right-hander up to 52 pitches and down 2-0 early in Citi Field.

Jacob deGrom retired the first nine batters he faced, but a leadoff walk and an error in the Nats' fourth gave the Nats two runners on with no one out. Jayson Werth singled to get the Nationals on the board, Bryce Harper walked to load the bases and a sac fly by Ryan Zimmerman tied things up at 2-2. An RBI groundout by Wilson Ramos put the Nationals ahead, 3-2 after three and a half.

Strasburg settled in and after throwing 52 pitches in the first two innings, was at 94 total after five, with a 3-2 lead.

Two more scored in the sixth and Strasburg left the game up 5-2 and in line for a win... 8-2 final.

1. The Wrap-Up: Erik Goeddel issued a walk to Ian Desmond in his first at bat after taking over for deGrom. Danny Espinosa came up with one out and the bases loaded and... hit a fly to center, but not deep enough. Juan Lagares made the catch in center and a strong throw home to get Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. Double play.

Aaron Barrett came on with runners on the corners and two out in the Mets' sixth... and struck Eric Campbell out with a filthy 0-2 slider inside. Wilmer Flores stepped in with two out and lined out to left to end the sixth. 5-2 Nats.

Goeddel gave up a leadoff single by Tyler Moore and a one-out single by Yunel Escobar before the Mets went to the pen in the top of the seventh... Sean Gilmartin came on to face Bryce Harper, lefty vs lefty, and got a groundout to second for the final out of the frame.

Sammy Solis came on in the seventh for his MLB debut throwing mid-90s heat on his first two offerings. A groundout to short by Kevin Plawecki got Solis his first major league out. John Mayberry, Jr. came on as a pinch hitter and lined outto left on an 85 mph 1-1 changeup. Curtis Granderson K'd swinging at a 96 mph 1-2 fastball. 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

Solis came back out in the eighth, giving up a line drive single to left by Lucas Duda with one down, but completing his second scoreless frame. Two scoreless on 22 pitches in his MLB debut.

Buddy Carlyle came out for a second inning of work in the top of the ninth, but was done with one out after the Nats loaded the bases with singles by Clint Robinson, Yunel Escobar and Jayson Werth. Lefty Jack Leathersich came on to face Bryce Harper, lefty vs lefty, and gave up a base-clearing double that made it 8-2 Nats after eight and a half.

Drew Storen threw a quick, 1-2-3 ninth. Ballgame.

Nationals now 10-13