5. Stephen Strasburg vs the Fish: Stephen Strasburg allowed seven hits and four earned runs in four innings on the mound in an August 30th start against the Miami Marlins in the nation's capital before he left the outing with an upper back issue that led to Washington's 27-year-old, 2009 no.1 overall pick missing a turn in the rotation.
But he came back with two impressive starts, striking out 13 in a 5-3 loss to the Mets and a career-high-tying 14 batters in eight scoreless in a one-hit shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies which the Nationals won, 4-0.
"Really good tonight," Matt Williams told reporters after the win on the road in Citizens Bank Park.
"I think that the biggest thing is he established low fastball," Williams said. "Didn't use his changeup until about the fourth inning, but when he establishes low fastball he gets a lot of swings and misses on the changeup too. And then innings four-through-eight, used the changeup a lot and got a lot of guys to swing and miss at it. He was really good."
"It's a tough pitch to hit when you pound the bottom of the strike zone," Strasburg said, after he improved to (9-7) on the year, with a 3.98 ERA, a 3.12 FIP, 23 walks (1.95 BB/9) and 125 Ks (10.58 K/9) in 106 ⅓ innings pitched, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .239/.286/.397 line.
"When he establishes that heater, early in the game, down in the zone and then throws off that changeup, it's lights out," Bryce Harper told MASN's Dan Kolko. "There's nothing more you can say. He's unbelievable out there."
This afternoon in Nationals Park, Strasburg was making his fourth start of the season against the Miami Marlins, after going (0-2) in the previous three outings, with a 6.92 ERA and a .352/.407/.556 line against in 13 innings pitched.
Strasburg started today's outing with a scoreless first in which he worked around a bunt singled and stolen base by Dee Gordon in a 15-pitch frame.
Given a 3-0 lead to work with, Strasburg issued a one-out walk to Derek Dietrich, and threw a wild pitch that moved the runner into scoring position. Miguel Rojas grounded into to short for the second out of the frame, but an error on a grounder to short by Marlins' catcher Tomas Telis allowed Dietrich to score. 3-1. 24-pitch first, 39 total after two.
Christian Yelich bounced a two-out single off Strasburg's leg in the Marlins' third and Justin Bour sent him around to third with a single to right, but Marcell Ozuna lined out to second to end a 17-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 56 total after three.
Miguel Rojas singled to center with one down in the fourth, but he was doubled up on a grounder to second off Tomas Telis' bat that started an inning-ending 4-6-3. 13-pitch frame, 69 total.
Strasburg added his seventh K of the game in a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth that left him at 81 pitches.
After striking out his eighth batter of the day for the second out of the sixth, Strasburg left a first-pitch curve up in the zone for Marcell Ozuna, who hit a solo shot to left field and over the visitor's bullpen. 3-2 Nationals. Derek Dietrich K'd looking for out no.3 and Strasburg's 9th K. 96 pitches.
With the score 10-2 Nationals after a big, seven-run bottom of the sixth, Strasburg worked around a leadoff single by Miguel Rojas in a scoreless, 12-pitch seventh that ended with his 10th K. 108 total.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 1 HR, 108 P, 70 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
4. Nicolino vs the Nats; One of seven players (along with Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Yunel Escobar, Anthony DeSclafani, Jake Marisnick and Jeff Mathis) acquired in the November 19, 2012 trade that sent Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes to Toronto, 2010 Blue Jays' 2nd Round pick Justin Nicolino made his MLB debut back on June 20th, throwing seven scoreless against the Cincinnati Reds in a 5-0 win in which he earned his first major league decision.
Nicolino, 23, made one more start with the Marlins in June, but was sent back down to Triple-A after that, where he's gone (7-7) with a 2.85 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, 29 walks (2.27 BB/9) and 63 Ks (4.93 K/9) in 115 IP this season.
In Miami's rotation, the left-hander, drafted out of Orlando, Florida was (3-3) with a 3.81 ERA, a 4.86 FIP, 15 walks (2.48 BB/9) and 18 Ks (2.98 K/9) in 54 ⅓ IP, over which opposing hitters have put a .275/.335/.468 line.
Though he'd struggled in Marlins Park, to the tune of a 5.86 ERA, a 5.42 FIP and a .315/.373/.565 line against in 27 ⅔ IP at home, Nicolino had actually enjoyed success on the road before taking the mound in Nationals Park this afternoon, with a 1.69 ERA, a 4.27 FIP and a .229/.291/.358 line against in 26 ⅓ IP outside of the Sunshine State.
His last outing before today's in the series finale in the nation's capital, was a six-inning start against the New York Mets in which he gave up six hits, a walk and three earned runs, receiving no decision in a 4-3 loss to the division leaders.
"His strikes-to-balls ratio was outstanding," Dan Jennings told reporters after Nicolino threw 93 pitches, 70 for strikes, giving up a solo home run in the fourth and a two-run blast in the sixth before he was done for the day.
Between the home runs, Nicolino retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, with a two-out double in the sixth putting a runner on before the second blast.
His 10th major league start this afternoon began with a one-out walk to Yunel Escobar, a single to center by Bryce Harper and a two-run double off Jayson Werth's bat that got over Marcell Ozuna's head to put the Nationals up 2-0 early. Werth took third on the throw in and scored on a sac fly to center by Ian Desmond. 3-0. 17-pitch first.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Nicolino at 31 pitches.
Yunel Escobar lined an 0-1 curve to left for what looked like a double off the bat, but got thrown out trying to take second on a strong throw in by Christian Yelich. Bryce Harper's groundout to second ended a quick, eight-pitch bottom of the third, 39 total after three.
A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth pushed the Marlins' lefty up to 51 pitches.
Nicolino worked around a one-out single by Trea Turner for a scoreless, 15-pitch fifth. 65 pitches.
Yunel Escobar singled to left field to start the Nationals' sixth and took third on a spinner off Bryce Harper's bat that got by Derek Dietrich at short/third in the shift. Jayson Werth chased a high fastball for strike three with runners on first and third and no one out, but Ian Desmond walked to load the bases. Wilson Ramos stepped in next and hit a sac fly to right that brought Yunel Escobar in, 4-2. Tyler Moore got hold of a first-pitch cutter in the next at bat and broke it open with a three-run blast to left that made it 4-2 Nationals.
• Justin Nicolino's Line: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 85 P, 57 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: With last night's win, the Nationals have won six of their last seven games and they tied the season series with the Marlins, 9-9.
• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" update: Washington's offense is ranked first in the majors in walks (144) and OBP (.368), third in AVG (.282) and run scored (180), and fourth in SLG (.472) and HRs (48)... since August 18th.
• Jayson Werth extended his on-base streak to 28-straight games last night, over which he's put up a .300/.408/.591 line.
• Bryce Harper is 11 for 23 with five home runs in his last six games. He currently ranks first in AVG (.340), OBP (.467), SLG (.671), runs scored (113), home runs (41) and Wins Above Replacement (9.4 fWAR).
• Miami is 6-3 against Washington at home this season, but 3-6 in the nation's capital after last night's loss.
• In today's Marlins-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Christian Yelich has posted a .347 AVG (76 for 219) over his last 58 games, which is the second-highest average over that stretch, behind only Giants' catcher Buster Posey's .364 AVG.
• Justin Bour entered today's season finale with the Nationals with an eight-game hitting streak against the Nats going...
2. Turning Point(s): A one-out walk, weak single to center and line drive that got over Marlins' center fielder Marcell Ozuna's head put Miami in an early hole, with Yunel Escobar drawing the walk, Bryce Harper dumping one in short center and Jayson Werth hitting hte line drive that drove both runners in. 2-0. Werth scored on a sac fly to center off Ian Desmond's bat and the Nationals took a 3-0 lead early in the series and season finale with their divisional rivals.
• The Marlins scored a run on a two-out throwing error by Ian Desmond in the second, then made it a one-run game when Marcell Ozuna crushed a first-pitch curve with two down in the sixth, sending a solo shot over the visitor's 'pen to make it 3-2 in D.C. Ozuna's 9th.
• The Nationals loaded the bases with one down in the bottom of the sixth, however, and Wilson Ramos hit a sac fly to right to bring in a run before Tyler Moore's three-run blast broke this one open. 7-2 Nationals.
1. The Wrap-Up: Scott McGough took over for Miami with two down in the Nats' sixth, and loaded the bases back up with two walks around a single, before giving up a base-clearing double to right-center by Yunel Escobar. 10-2.
Jose Urena came on for the Fish in the bottom of the seventh and retired the Nationals in order.
Matt Grace took over on the mound for the Nationals in the top of the eighth and gave up a one-out single by Christian Yelich and a two-out RBI double by Marcell Ozuna. 10-3 Nats.
Urena came back out for the bottom of the eighth and gave up a one-out double by Pedro Severino for the Nats' backstop prospect's first MLB hit in his first major league at bat. Way to go, Pedro!
Yunel Escobar's fourth hit of the game with an RBI single to center that brought Severino in to make it 11-3 over the Marlins, and Escobar and Bryce Harper scored on a two-out single by Matt den Dekker that made it 13-3.
Joe Ross came on to end it in the ninth and retired the Marlins in order. Ballgame. 13-3 final.
Nationals now 78-71