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Washington Nationals rained out again: Stephen Strasburg Ks five in 3.0 scoreless before rain

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The Washington Nationals were up in the top of the fourth when the skies over Jupiter, Florida's Roger Dean Stadium opened up and rain eventually ended the Nats' Grapefruit League matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg struck out nine New York Yankees in his last start before today, piling up Ks in a five-inning, 68-pitch outing in what was his fourth start in Grapefruit League action.

Over 14 innings on the mound this Spring, the 27-year-old right-hander had collected 19 Ks total, walking five and giving up 16 hits and five runs, with opposing hitters putting up a .291 AVG against him.

Though Dusty Baker talked about Strasburg walking off the mound shaking his head like he was unhappy last time out, Strasburg told reporters, including The Washington Post's James Wagner, that he made improvements over previous starts.

"It’s progress," Strasburg said. "My change-up was a lot better [Wednesday]. I feel like I was finishing the pitch better and not yanking it as many times. The curveball felt good. Fastball command, yeah, always gonna work on that."

Strasburg finished strong last season, going (8-2) over his final thirteen starts, with a 1.76 ERA, 12 walks (1.32 BB/9), 110 Ks (12.07 K/9) and a .175/.208/.292 line against in 82 IP after the first of two DL stints in 2015.

Strasburg took the mound this afternoon for his fifth Grapefruit League start and stranded two runners when he struck Brandon Moss out with a high 0-2 fastball to end a scoreless, 17-pitch frame.

Tommy Pham hit a fastball to center for a two-out single in Strasburg's second inning of work, but a 1-2 fastball got the opposing pitcher, Adam Wainwright, swinging to end a quick, 11-pitch inning. 28 total after two.

Matt Carpenter drew a leadoff walk in the Cardinals' half of the third, but Strasburg struck Kolten Wong out with a 1-2 fastball up high, got up 0-2 on Matt Carpenter and caught him looking with a fastball outside and threw a 3-2 heater by Randal Grichuk for three straight Ks and five on the day. 21-pitch third, 49 total.

That was it for Strasburg, as rain interrupted an ultimately washed out this afternoon's game in the fourth..

GAME NOTES:

Chris Heisey, who's still in the running for a spot on the Nationals' bench, walked in the first at bat of the second, stole second as Matt den Dekker K'd swinging and took third on an errant throw by Cards' catcher Yadier Molina.

With Stephen Drew up, however, the Cardinals employed a shift and got a groundout to the right side from the Nats' bench bat, allowing them to throw home and get Heisey at the plate.

Trea Turner showed off his speed again on a weak grounder to first in the top of the third. Turner hit a high hopper to the right side that Cards' first baseman Matt Holliday fielded, but by the time Wainwright got over to cover first, Turner was past the bag. He was stranded though.

• Stephen Drew bunted when the Cardinals shifted on him again in the fourth, dropping a rolling single down the third base line and took third base on a Scott Sizemore single before scoring on a sac fly by Jose Lobaton. 1-0 Nats.

• That's how it ended. Rained out again. One more for the Nationals in Florida tomorrow and then two exhibitions in the nation's capital this weekend before Opening Day.