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Nats Nightly: Stephen Strasburg's strong showing overshadowed by Bryce Harper's slam

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Stephen Strasburg's second start of the season was delayed by illness, but the 27-year-old right-hander did not disappoint in the Washington Nationals' 6-2 win over the Atlanta Braves in the nation's capital. Dusty Baker and Stras talked about the outing.

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Bryce Harper's achievement on Thursday afternoon, and the manner in which he did it, hitting a grand slam for home run No. 100 of his career, deserved all the headlines and coverage it generated, but it did also, to some extent, and through no fault of his own, overshadow what Stephen Strasburg accomplished on the mound in Washington's 6-2 win over Atlanta.

It was especially impresssive considering that Strasburg's participation in the finale of the four-game set in Nats Park was up in the air until moments before skipper Dusty Baker met with reporters for his pregame press conference.

"Stras is pitching," Baker said a few hours before things got started. "Just found out. He's getting some food in him, which is a good sign. And he is pitching."

Baker was asked what he would be looking for from the 27-year-old starter to make sure Strasburg was good to go once he got on the mound.

"How he's performing. How his endurance appears. But you know guys -- like I told Stras -- guys have done, have pitched and played their best games when they were sick. I've seen it.

"I don't know why that happens, they probably don't know why it happens. And I told him if you've got to throw up in-between innings or go use the bathroom, then do it. We'll hold the game up, we'll wait on you."

"That's part of being a pro," Baker said. "That's part of being an athlete. You're not going to feel good every day.

"There's a point where you're too sick to be out there, like he was yesterday and the day before, but he said that he's ready and we'll keep a close eye on him."

"We've got [Yusmeiro] Petit and other guys ready in case," Baker added. Strasburg didn't need much help.

He struck out four hits and allowed two runs, both earned, over his 7 ⅔ innings, striking out seven in a 100-pitch outing which saw him mix in a fastball that sat anywhere from 95.4 mph to 97.9, his changeup, curve and even a slider (89.1-90.1) which he's been reluctant to acknowledge he's throwing.

Strasburg looked a little wild early, walking the leadoff batter in each of the first two innings, and missing up high with the heater, though he held the Braves off the board until the third, when a leadoff single eventually came around.

He settled in nicely and retired nine straight batters between the RBI single in the third and a two-out single in the sixth.

Strasburg stranded the runner who reached in the sixth, and the only other runner he let on ended up scoring after he left the mound, for the second of two runs he was charged with on the day.

"I told you, sometimes you throw some of your best games on days when you don't think you can do it," Baker told reporters after the win.

"He was on guts, big time," Baker said.

"That was a gutsy performance. Because it didn't look like he had it. Those balls were all over everywhere [early].

"Took a little while to settle in," Strasburg told reporters, "and once the game got going, I guess I sweated it out a little bit and started to lock it in."

He told Baker he was good to go Thursday afternoon, and then headed out to the mound after a few days of dealing with whatever it was that plagued him.

"I was going to go out there and give it everything I had," Strasburg said, "and that's what I told [Baker], so whatever that was going to be, they were going to get it.

"I just kept telling myself, like I said earlier, just one pitch at a time and just kept reminding myself that I was just a click away and it was all going to sync up eventually."

It did. Baker said Strasburg didn't look good early.

"He came off like he was close to needing mouth-to-mouth. I wasn't going to give it to him," Baker joked.

"But he looked like -- he was struggling, big time. We knew he was sick. We didn't have any idea what we were going to get out of him today. But he said he felt better as time went on, because he sweated it out, whatever was in him.

"So we were very fortunate to get as much time out of him as we did."

"You can't really worry about that kind of stuff out there," Strasburg said of Baker's concerns early in the outing.

"It's just whatever I had in the tank I was going to give it all for the guys and whatever happens happens."

What happened was that Strasburg got his second win in two starts and the Nationals improved to 7-1 with a four-game sweep of the Braves.

• We talked about Harper's big grand slam, Strasburg's outing and the Nationals' hot start to the season on last night's edition of Nats Nightly: