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Nationals 8-3 over Padres: Nats win third straight overall in series opener

Stephen Strasburg put together another solid start tonight in the nation's capital and Ryan Zimmerman's sixth-inning slam busted this one open as the Washington Nationals took the series opener from the San Diego Padres, 8-3 final.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

5. Strasburg vs San Diego: Washington Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg improved to (4-1) in his last six starts with a win in his seven-inning outing against the Colorado Rockies last week in Coors Field.

Since returning from his first DL stint of the season, the 27-year-old right-hander has put up a 1.26 ERA, six walks (1.51 BB/9) and 43 Ks (10.85 K/9) in 35 ⅔ IP over that stretch, holding opposing hitters to a .167/.205/.278 line.

"Total control of the game. He went out there from pitch one to the last pitch he threw it was total control of the game, knew exactly what he wanted to do..." -Jonathan Papelbon on Stephen Strasburg vs the Rockies in Coors Field

He's allowed two runs or less in his last seven starts going back to a brief 3 ⅔-inning start against the Phillies on May 23rd.

Last time out, Strasburg held the Rockies to two hits and one unearned run over seven innings of work in a 4-1 win in the mile-high air of Denver, CO.

"Just really good," Matt Williams told reporters when he spoke about Strasburg after the game.

"Through seven he had 90-ish pitches, could have gone another. In this ballpark that's saying something."

"I think he was in command the whole game," Williams said. "He threw it where he wanted to, and threw well. Gave us a chance."

"When you think 'Stephen Strasburg', that's what you think you're going to get," Jayson Werth observed. "And he's just being himself. He's just doing what he does."

"Total control of the game," Jonathan Papelbon added. "He went out there from pitch one to the last pitch he threw it was total control of the game, knew exactly what he wanted to do out there today and he executed it."

Tonight in the nation's capital, Strasburg was facing the Padres for the second time this season, after giving up five hits and three runs in five innings in a mid-May start against San Diego in Petco Park which the Nationals won.

Strasburg's outing against his hometown team began with two quick outs. He walked Matt Kemp to end a seven-pitch battle, but Justin Upton stepped in with a runner on and got to a 2-2 count before he struck out swinging on a 98 mph fastball. 18-pitch first.

Yonder Alonso lined a 1-1 four-seamer to center for a leadoff single in the top of the second and Jedd Gyorko crushed a 97 mph first-pitch fastball in the next at bat and hit a two-run home run into the left field bullpen. 2-0 Padres. 16-pitch second for Strasburgh, 34 total after two.

WIth the game tied at 2-2, Strasburg came back out and blew the Padres away in the top of the third, striking out two in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that left him at 47 pitches and six strikeouts.

An 18-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth pushed Strasburg up to 65 pitches. Nine-straight Padres set down. A 19-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Strasburg at 84 pitches, with 12 straight Padres set down. Another 1-2-3 frame in the sixth gave Strasburg 15-straight outs. 18-pitch frame, 102 total.

Stephen Strasburg's Line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 102 P, 65 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

4. Shields vs D.C.: In his first season in the Padres' rotation after signing a 4-year/$75M deal this past February, 33-year-old, ten-year veteran right-hander James Shields was (9-5) with a 3.74 ERA, a 4.11 FIP, 56 walks (3.18 BB/9), 174 Ks (9.87 K/9) and a .  247/.322/.449 line against in 26 starts and 158 ⅔ innings pitched before he took the mound tonight in Nationals Park in the series opener with Washington.

"Shields was very effective for six. Worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam, that's a momentum-changer in the game. Got big strikeouts at times." -Padres' skipper Pat Murphy on Shields vs the Braves last time out

Shields was coming off a strong start against the Atlanta Braves last week in Petco Park which saw him give up five hits and two walks in six innings of a 9-0 Padres' win.

"Shields was very effective for six," San Diego's interim skipper Pat Murphy told reporters after the game.

"Worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam, that's a momentum-changer in the game. Got big strikeouts at times. He got big strikeouts with runners in scoring position and those double plays are really key."

Shields was facing the Nationals for the first time this season tonight, after missing the Nats during the series in San Diego in mid-May, and making his first start against Washington since 2009.

His outing began with a scoreless 15-pitch first in which he worked around a one-out walk to Jayson Werth.

Yunel Escobar lined a single to left to start the Nationals' half of the second, and two outs later scored on a line drive home run to left off Wilson Ramos' bat. Ramos crushed a 1-0 curve and hit a game-tying blast 2-2. 18-pitch second, 33 total after two.

Anthony Rendon singled with one down in the Nats' third, and scored one out later when Yunel Escobar ripped into a 1-1 changeup from Shields and sent an RBI double screaming into left. 3-2 Nationals.

A two-out error by Yangervis Solarte put runners on the corners with two down, but they were both stranded when Ian Desmond grounded out to second to end an 18-pitch inning by the Padres' starter. 51 total.

Denard Span walked with two down in the Nationals' fourth and moved into scoring position on a two-out line drive to right by Jayson Werth, but both runners were stranded when Anthony Rendon sent a fly to center to end a 30-pitch frame that left Shields at 81 pitches.

Bryce Harper doubled to right and off the out-of-town scoreboard on Shields' 85th pitch and took third with two down, and scored when Ian Desmond hit an opposite field double to right to make it 4-2 Nationals at the end of a 29-pitch inning that pushed Shields up to 110 pitches.

Shields came back out for the bottom of the sixth, but gave up a two-out single by Anthony Rendon that bounced off his leg and ended his night...

• James Shields' Line: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 121 P, 74 S, 7/5 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: The Padres arrived in the nation's capital after a six-game homestand in which they went 5-1 with a three-game sweep of the Braves and a series win over the Cardinals.

• San Diego started the series in Nationals Park on a bit of a run, with four consecutive series wins and seven wins in their last nine series, going back to July 23rd.

• Justin Upton turned 28 today.

• Matt Kemp arrived in D.C. in the midst of a 15-game hit streak, over which he's put up a .361/.397/.607 line with 22 hits, four of them home runs in 61 ABs over that stretch.

• James Shields' 174 strikeouts before tonight, were the seventh most in the majors and the fourth most in the NL, behind only Clayton Kershaw (222), Max Scherzer (201) and Madison Bumgarner (180) amongst National League starters.

• The Nationals took three games of their four-game set in Petco Park.

• The Nats reinstated Denard Span from the 15-Day DL this afternoon and inserted him in the leadoff spot for the series opener with the Padres.

Michael Taylor (who's sitting out tonight's game), currently leads all NL rookies in stolen bases (15) and outfield assists (6), and he's second in batting average with runners in scoring position (.346) and third in RBIs (55).

• In today's Ian Desmond-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, the Nationals' shortstop is (35 for 117) in his last 32 games, going back to July 20th, with a .299/.364/.566 line, four doubles, eight home runs, 12 walks and six stolen bases over that stretch.

2. Turning Point(s): After Stephen Strasburg worked around a walk in the first, he came back out for the top of the second and gave up back-to-back hits, a line drive single to center by Yonder Alonso on a 1-1 heater and a two-run home run by Jedd Gyorko on the very next pitch. Gyrko sent the 97 mph four-seamer into the left field bullpen to put the Padres up 2-0 early in the series opener in Nationals Park.

• Yunel Escobar singled to start the Nats' second, but two outs later was still standing at first when Wilson Ramos went down for a low curve from James Shields and lined it out to left field for a game-tying two-run blast. Escobar was 2 for 2 on the night after he lined a two-out double to left in the third to put the Nationals ahead, 3-2.

• The Nationals added to their led in the fifth with Bryce Harper doubling to start the frame and scoring two-outs later on an opposite field double by Ian Desmond. 4-2 Nats.

• Anthony Rendon singled with two out in the sixth, and Bryce Harper "faked" a HBP to get out of a groundout and walked in front of Yunel Escobar, who walked to load the bases for Ryan Zimmerman, who hit an opposite field grand slam that put the Nationals ahead, 8-2.

1. The Wrap-Up: Marc Rzepczyinski took over for James Shields with a runner on and two out in the Nationals' sixth and walked Bryce Harper to put two on with two out. Bud Norris came on against Yunel Escobar, and issued a base-loading walk in front of Ryan Zimmerman, who went all the way the other way with a fastball down the pipe and hit a grand slam over the out-of-town scoreboard to make it 8-2.

Casey Janssen took over for the Nationals in the top of the seventh and retired the first two batters he faced before giving up a solo home run to left-center by Jedd Gyorko.

Padres' righty Shawn Kelley threw a scoreless frame in the Nationals' half of the seventh.

Matt Thornton gave up back-to-back, one-out singles before he was lifted in favor of Blake Treinen in the eighth, who got an inning-ending double play out of Matt Kemp.

Jaoquin Benoit walked Yunel Escobar with two down in the eighth but struck Ryan Zimmerman out to end the frame.

Treinen came back out for the ninth and gave up a one-out single by Yonder Alonso, but Jedd Gyorko grounded into a game-ending double play. Ballgame. 8-3 final.

Nationals now 63-61