Stephen Strasburg struck out ten batters in each of his last two starts before tonight's outing against the Cardinals in St. Louis, Missouri's Busch Stadium III.
Strasburg was fighting history, however, trying to lead the Nationals to what would be just their fourth win in their last 21 games in the Cardinals' home.
He took the mound with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a leadoff home run by Michael A. Taylor, who took the third pitch of the game from Cards' starter Mike Leake out the other way for an opposite field blast that put the visitors up early.
The Cardinals were up 2-1 after the bottom of the first though, with Matt Holliday (RBI double) and Matt Adams (RBI single) driving in runs to put the home team ahead.
That lead last for two innings.
Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon singled, stole second (on a call that was reversed) and scored on an RBI single to right by Daniel Murphy that tied things up at 2-2 in the fourth, and Ryan Zimmerman, who walked one out after Rendon's hit, took third on Murphy's single and scored on a sac fly to right by Jayson Werth that made it 3-2.
Murphy scored the easy way when Danny Espinosa hit a 90 mph 1-2 fastball out to right for a two-out, two-run home run that made it a 5-2 game in the Nationals' favor.
Strasburg settled in with the lead and was up to 82 pitches and six Ks after he struck out the side in the Cardinals' fifth.
He struck out the side again in the sixth, giving him 9 Ks total on 94 pitches and strikeouts from seven of eight batters, and worked around a leadoff single in the seventh, getting a fly to deep right and a 6-4-3 DP in a nine-pitch frame that left him 103 overall.
Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 103 P, 70 S, 4/6 GO/FO.
Blake Treinen took over on the mound for the Nationals in the eighth and gave up a single and a two-run home run, with Matt Adams taking a 3-1 sinker for a ride to left for an opposite field blast that got the Cards within one, 5-4.
Jonathan Papelbon came on for the save opportunity in the ninth and locked down No. 8 of 2016, working around a leadoff walk for a scoreless frame. Ballgame.
Nationals now 15-7
• NATS NOTES:
- In today's Nationals-themed Fun with Arbitrary End Points segment, Washington is 8-18 overall against St. Louis since 2012. The Cards hold the lead in the all-time (2005-present) series between the two teams, 43-27.
- In today's Cardinals-themed Fun with Arbitrary End Points segment, St. Louis is 5-1 against Washington in Busch Stadium... since 2014.
- The Cardinals are 24-6 all-time against the Nationals at Busch Stadium III with wins in 20 of their last 23 against the Nationals in St. Louis.
- The Nationals' pitching staff starts the three-game set in St. Louis leading the majors with a combined 2.35 ERA.
- The Cardinals' offense starts the three-game set leading the majors in runs scored (137) and SLG (.490) and they're tied for second in the league in home runs (33).
- The Nationals start the series with the lowest opponents' SLG (.308) and are second in the majors in fewest home runs allowed (13).
- The Cardinals and Nationals enter the three-game set with 31 combined scoreless innings between them, 22 for the Nats, nine for the Cards. The scoreless innings streak for the Nationals ended three pitches in when Michael A. Taylor hit an opposite field blast to right field for a 1-0 lead.
- Yadier Molina has a 17-game on-base streak as the three-game set with the Nationals begins.
- Bryce Harper starts the series in Busch Stadium tied for first in the majors in home runs (9), RBIs (24) and the 23-year-old slugger leads all major league hitters with a .786 SLG so far this season.
- With runners on base, Harper is 10 for 23 so far this season with nine extra base hits with runners on (four home runs and five doubles). He also has eight walks, four of them intentional, in plate appearances with runners on base.
- Daniel Murphy has reached base in 17 of his first 20 games with the Nationals and 36 of his first 82 plate appearances for Washington after signing a 3-year/$37.5M free agent deal this winter.
- Murphy has also put up multi-hit games in 10 of his first 20 games with the Nats.
- The Nationals' six errors thus far, are the least among major league teams, and their .992 fld% as a team is the majors league's best. They made their seventh error tonight.
Nationals now 15-7