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Stephen Strasburg struggles in opener with the Reds, but Nationals pick up win in extras

Stephen Strasburg hasn’t made it past the sixth in any of his last three starts after going six-plus in 11 of 12 to start the 2017 campaign.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

By his own admission, Stephen Strasburg wasn’t really at his best last time out before Friday night, in what ended up a 5 13-inning outing against the New York Mets on the road in Citi Field.

Strasburg gave up six hits, two walks, and two earned runs, throwing 106 pitches total before he ran into trouble in the sixth and was lifted.

“Kind of scuffling out there today,” Strasburg told reporters after what ended up a 7-4 win.

“Just kept trying to make pitches. Sometimes they would show up, sometimes they wouldn’t. But you’re going to have games like this. So you’ve just got to do your best to keep it close, and the offense and the bullpen picked me up today.”

“He kind of ran out of steam,” Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker said when asked about the relatively short outing by the Nationals’ starter, who’d gone just five innings in the outing before he faced the Mets, after going six-plus in 11 of 12 to start the season.

It could have been worse. Strasburg gave up two runs, but managed to work his way out of trouble with well-timed double plays after back-to-back, one-out singles in the Mets’ half of the first, and again after back-to-back singles started the bottom of the fourth.

“He threw up some key double plays again,” Baker said. “That limits your pitch count and that’s a pitcher’s best friend, you get two outs, especially inning-ending double plays, two outs with one pitch, and so he’s one of our top guys throwing up ground balls and he threw them up at the right time.”

It was another short outing for Strasburg in the series opener with the Cincinnati Reds last night.

Scooter Gennett hit a 97 mph 1-1 fastball out to right with one down in the first for his third home run in six career at bats against Strasburg to that point, and a bases-loaded sac fly and back-to-back, two-out RBI singles made it 4-0 Reds at the end of a 28-pitch opening frame.

Scott Schebler was 1 for 1 with a sac fly and a double after he lined a two-out, two-base hit to right field in the Reds’ half of the third and he scored on a fly to center field Wilmer Difo probably should have caught, but didn’t, making it 5-1 Reds at that point.

Strasburg was up to 95 pitches total after he worked around two hit batters in a 15-pitch fifth, after Anthony Rendon made it a three-run game with a solo shot off Reds’ right-hander Luis Castillo in the bottom of the fourth.

That was it for the Nationals’ right-handed starter versus the Reds...

Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 65 S, 5/5 GO/FO.

“He struggled,” Baker said after the Nationals came back for a 6-5 win, taking the series opener on a walk-off single by Bryce Harper in the bottom of the tenth.

“Every pitch and every batter was a struggle, but that’s how pitching and how life is sometimes. You’ve got to keep struggling and find a way to keep your team in the game to come back like we did tonight.”

“Tough one,” Strasburg told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, after the game.

“Obviously first inning was not great but I can try to go as long as I can and as hard as I can and they picked me up.”

Strasburg said he needed to go back to the drawing board after struggling on a humid night in the nation’s capital, explaining he needs to adjust sooner than later to the sort of conditions he pitched in last night.

Over his last three starts, the 28-year-old righty is (1-0) with a 7.63 ERA, five walks (2.93 BB/9), 20 Ks (11.74 K/9) and a .333/.397/.571 line against in 15 13 IP.

In his previous 12 starts, the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick was (7-2) with a 2.80 ERA, 22 walks (2.46 BB/9), 89 Ks (9.97 K/9) and a .202/.258/.330 line against in 80 13 innings pitched.