Stephen Strasburg was supposed to start on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Braves, but the Washington Nationals hurler couldn't answer the bell due to an illness that had plagued him the past week. In the sunshine of a 4 p.m. start on Thursday, Strasburg did take the hill to take his turn in the rotation.
He had some trouble keeping his fastball down in the zone early, but his changeup was on point, and the veteran starter gutted his way though 7 2/3 innings and Bryce Harper hit his first career grand slam to lead the Nats in a sweep over the winless Braves 6-2 before a widely spread out matinee crowd at Nationals Park.
Strasburg walked the leadoff hitter in the first and second innings but got through unscathed, thanks to three strikeouts. In the third, however, leadoff hitter Jace Peterson singled, went to second on a sacrifice, took third on a groundout and scored on Nick Markakis' opposite-field single.
The Nats got that one back in the bottom of the inning...and then some.
Matt den Dekker led off with a walk, but was erased on Strasburg's sacrifice attempt. Consecutive singles by Chris Heisey and Anthony Rendon loaded 'em up, and Bryce Harper cashed 'em all in, crushing one off the facing of the upper deck in right for his first career grand slam -- his third homer of the season and 100th career home run -- and a 4-1 lead.
Harper became the eighth youngest player in MLB history to hit the century mark.
In the next inning, Wilson Ramos clubbed one to left center for his first home run of the season, putting the Nats up 5-1.
Ramos helped make it 6-1 too. Daniel Murphy doubled with two outs in the sixth, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Ramos' single that stretched into two bases when center fielder Mallax Smith had trouble picking it up.
Pinch-hitter Daniel Castro singled off Strasburg in the eighth, then after he K'd Smith, manager Dusty Baker called on Felipe Rivero. Markakis greeted Rivero with a double and Castro scored from first.
Strasburg lumbered off the field after two outs in the eighth to a standing ovation and a pat on the chest from his manager. He allowed two earned runs on four hits total and two walks, striking out seven.
W: Strasburg (2-0) L: Teheran (0-2) SV: None. HR: Harper (3), Ramos (1) E: None.
NEXT GAME: Friday in Philadelphia against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 p.m. Joe Ross (1-0, 1.29) faces Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 1.54).
Nationals now 7-1
- The Nats are in the midst of their best start in team history (2005-pres.). The 2016 Nats are the first team to start a season 7-1 since baseball returned to the District in 2005. It is also the best start in franchise (Nationals/Expos) history since the 2001 Expos started the season 6-1.
- The last D.C.-based team to start the season 6-1 were the 1951 Washington Senators. The 1913 Washington Senators also started the season 6-1.
- Jayson Werth clubbed his first home run of the season Wednesday night, a two-run shot in the fourth inning, the 199th home run of his career. When Werth hits No. 200, he will join Alfonso Soriano, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman as the only players to hit their 200th career home run in a Nationals uniform, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
- The Nationals now carry a 14-game home winning streak over the Braves. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 14-game streak ties the longest home winning streak over one opponent in Nationals history, set against the San Diego Padres from May 5, 1993 to May 24, 1995.
- According to Elias, it is the longest active streak in MLB and the longest home winning streak for one team since the New York Yankees won 17 straight home games over the Toronto Blue Jays from Sept. 19, 2012 to July 25, 2014.
- THIS DAY IN NATS HISTORY: In 2005, in the first Major League game played in Washington D.C. since Sept. 30, 1971, the Nationals beat the Diamondbacks at RFK Stadium, 5-3. President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Livan Hernandez earned the win, allowing three earned runs on three hits in 8 1/3 innings of work. Vinny Castilla hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the sixth inning.