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Nationals 6-1 over Rockies: Stephen Strasburg Ks 12 in return from DL

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Washington Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg came back from the DL and struck out 12 in seven innings in which he gave up just one run, and the Nats beat the Colorado Rockies, 6-1 in the second game of the three-game set in D.C.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

5. Strasburg's Back: In two rehab starts before he came off the DL for tonight's game, Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg walked one batter and struck out 16 in 9 ⅔ innings pitched.

Syracuse Chiefs' skipper Billy Gardner, Jr. told Syracuse.com's Lindsay Kramer the 27-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick was throwing the ball well in his final start with the Nats' top minor league affiliate, which saw Strasburg strike out 11 in 5 ⅔.

"Outstanding changeup, outstanding breaking ball. I thought his command was a lot better this start. He hit his spots pretty good tonight. He located. His stuff was dominant. When he's on, he's tough to get to."

"Breaking ball was there. Changeup off the fastball was there and the fastball sat at 95, 96 and touched 98..." -Matt Williams on Strasburg's stuff in his final rehab start

"When you have eleven strikeouts you’re doing something right," Matt Williams said when asked about Strasburg's outing.

"It shows command for getting ahead in the count. We rely on the people that see him pitch, as well, beyond the stat sheet, but command for his breaking ball was there. Changeup off the fastball was there and the fastball sat at 95, 96 and touched 98. So that's all positive things for him moving forward. It means he's feeling good and he has no apprehension letting the ball go."

Strasburg returned to the majors tonight for the first time since July 4th, when he suffered a left oblique strain three innings into a start against the San Francisco Giants.

In three starts before his second DL stint of the season, Strasburg was (2-0) with a 1.15 ERA, four walks (2.30 BB/9), 18 Ks (10.34 K/) and a .161/.217/.232 line against in 15 ⅔ innings. The injury was disappointing, coming as it did as he was finally getting going after a rough start to the 2015 campaign.

"Part of the conversation on the mound after he exited was with [Wilson Ramos] and [Ian Desmond] about how good [Strasburg] was today," Williams explained that day, "the best they've seen him all year."

Strasburg's first start in the majors in over a month began with a leadoff double to the right-center gap by Rockies' leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, who took third on a Jose Reyes' sac bunt.

A swinging bunt by Carlos Gonzalez gave Strasburg two outs, and he got Nolan Arenado swinging with a 2-2 curve to strand Blackmon at the end of a 12-pitch frame.

Strasburg got Ben Paulsen on a foul-tip strike three with a 96 mph 1-2 heater and DJ LeMahieu with an 84 mph 1-2 curve. Rockies' catcher Nick Hundley's pop to third ended Strasburg's second scoreless frame after 10 pitches. 22 total after two, three Ks in two scoreless.

Charlie Blackmon was 2 for 2 with two doubles after he lined a 96 mph 2-0 fastball to right for a two-out double in the Rockies' third, but Jose Reyes stepped in with a runner in scoring position and took an 0-2 fastball for a called strike three. 13-pitch frame, 35 total.

One out into the fourth, the Rockies got on the board when Nolan Arenado hit a 95 mph 1-0 fastball into the left field bullpen for a solo home run, his 27th of the season. 3-1 Nationals. Two Ks followed as Strasburg struck out the side in a 16-pitch frame. 51 total.

A 1-2 curve got Nick Hundley swinging for Strasburg's 9th K. Two quick outs followed in a 15-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 66 pitches after five.

A 1-2 change got Charlie Blackmon swinging for Strasburg's 10th K and the first out of a 10-pitch sixth that left the Nats' right-hander at 76 pitches.

Ben Paulsen was Strasburg's 11th strikeout victim of the game when he went down swinging at a 1-2 curve and DJ LeMahieu was no.12 when he went down swinging at a wicked, 2-2 bender to end a 15-pitch seventh. 91 total.

Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 Ks, 91 P, 65 S, 2/3 GO/FO.

4. Butler Did It: Eddie Butler, 24, a Colorado Rockies' 2012 first-round pick out of Chesapeake, VA and Radford University, made his MLB debut last season, with three starts over which he put up a 6.75 ERA, a 5.69 FIP, seven walks (3.94 BB/9) and three Ks (1.69 K/9) in 16 innings pitched.

Butler made 11 starts for the Rockies at the start of this season, between April 8th and June 5th, going (3-6) with a 4.80 ERA, a 5.58 FIP, 30 walks (4.97 BB/9) and 29 Ks (4.80 BB/9) in 54 ⅓ innings pitched, over which opposing hitters had a .319/.410/.505 line.

He was optioned to Colorado's Triple-A affiliate on June 9th, but returned to the rotation late last month.

In three starts since he came back up, the right-hander was (0-2) with a 7.80 ERA, 7.63 FIP, seven walks (4.20 BB/9), nine Ks (5.40 K/9) and a .310/.385/.672 line against in 15 IP before tonight.

Butler, who features four and two-seam fastballs (93.2 mph AVG on the four-seamer, 92.7 on the two), a slider (86 mph) and change (86.7) with an occasional cutter (79.7 mph), made first career start against the Nationals tonight.

It began with a scoreless, nine-pitch first in which he got a double play grounder out of Bryce Harper after Danny Espinosa bunted for a one-out hit. 4-5-3 DP.

Clint Robinson singled on a liner over the mound that bounced off shortstop Jose Reyes, and Ian Desmond walked with one down in the Nationals' second, in front of Wilson Ramos, who lined a two-run double to right-center and off the out-of-town scoreboard on a bounce to put the Nats up 2-0 early. 25-pitch second, 34 total after two.

Danny Espinosa walked to start the bottom of the third and took second on a low liner to right by Bryce Harper, but Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 6-4-3 DP in the next AB.

Clint Robinson took a four-pitch walk to bring Ian Desmond up with runners on the corner and two out, and Desmond singled up the middle to bring Espinosa in, 3-0. 22-pitch frame. 56 total after three.

Stephen Strasburg was 2 for 2 tonight after a one-out single to left, but he was doubled up on a 5-4-3 DP off Anthony Rendon's bat. Eight-pitch frame. 64 total.

Bryce Harper took the fourth walk of the game from Butler with one down in the Nationals' fifth, and scored from first on a double to left off Ryan Zimmerman's bat. 4-1 Nationals. 16-pitch fifth. 80 total.

Stephen Strasburg was 3 for 3 tonight after he lined a two-out single to left in the sixth, but he was stranded at first when Anthony Rendon K'd swinging to end a 16-pitch frame by Butler. 96 total.

Eddie Butler's Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 Ks, 96 P, 59 S, 9/4 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: Rockies' third baseman Nolan Arenado impressed in the field and at the plate last night, in a 3 for 4 game in the series opener. He's currently second in the majors in RBIs (80) and 11th in HRs (26).

• Arenado has hits in 36 of his last 46 games, 52 for 182 (.286 AVG).

• The Rockies, with last night's win, improved 22-13 in the nation's capital since 2005. They were, however, just 1-5 against the Nationals last season... so they've already matched their 2014 win total vs WAS.

• For today's "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Carlos Gonzalez and Arenado are first and second in the NL in homers, with 19 and 14, respectively, since June 1st.

• From Opening Day through 5/12, Gonzalez, whose grand slam lifted the Rockies to last night's win, had a .188 AVG (18 for 96). Since May 13th, he's hitting .316 (84 for 266).

• Tommy Kahnle's save last night, which ended when he struck out Bryce Harper, was his first in three opportunities.

• Harper was 1 for 3 with two walks last night. He's now reached base in 33 of his last 34 games and he currently leads the majors in slugging percentage (.663) and OPS (1.126). He leads the NL in HRs, with 29, and run scored, with 74.

• Stephen Strasburg started the night (2-3) against the Rockies in five career starts, with a 3.09 ERA, six walks and 39 Ks in 32 IP.

2. Turning Point(s): After an infield single by Clint Robinson and a walk by Ian Desmond, Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos fell behind 0-2 in his one-out at bat against Rockies' starter Eddie Butler, but Ramos ripped into a hanging slider from the right-hander and went the other way with it, lining a two-run double into the right-center gap for a 2-0 lead early in the second game of three with Colorado in D.C.

• Danny Espinosa walked to start the Nationals' third, and made his way around to third base after a single by Bryce Harper and a double play grounder by Ryan Zimmerman. Clint Robinson took a two-out walk to get Ian Desmond to the plate, and Desmond took a 2-0 fastball from Butler back up the middle to bring Espinosa in and make it 3-0 after three.

1. The Wrap-Up: Rockies' lefty Christian Friedrich took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, and issued a leadoff walk to Danny Espinosa, who took third base on a line drive single to right by Bryce Harper that bounced off the right field wall. Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI single that made it 5-1 Nationals.

Clint Robinson grounded into a double play in the next at bat, but Harper scored to make it 6-1 after seven.

Blake Treinen took over for the Nationals in the top of the eighth and threw a quick, seven-pitch frame.

Matt Thornton got the ball in the ninth and retired the Rockies in order. Ballgame. 6-1 final.

Nationals now 57-52