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Small steps for Stephen Strasburg in second outing off DL

August 28, 2018

PHILADELPHIA Stephen Strasburg is a man of few words, making sure his evaluations after each of his starts is succinct and on point.

So just three words was good news to the ears of manager Dave Martinez, who loves turning up the volume to music in his office after wins on the road.

“It was progress,” said Strasburg, standing his locker late Monday night at Citizens Bank Park in south Philadelphia.

A right-handed starter from San Diego, Strasburg went six innings and allowed just two runs with five strikeouts as the Nationals beat the Phillies 5-3 in the first contest of the three-game set. It was the 200th start of his career.

“I thought he was great,” Martinez said. “It was a big win for him. I think it’s just more reps [needed] for him. He made some good pitches. He gave us exactly what we needed.”

It was the first victory for Strasburg (7-7) since winning May 27 at Miami. After that he was 0-3 in four starts, coming off the disabled list on Wednesday at Nationals Park after dealing with neck problems.

In that game against the Phillies, he lasted just four innings and gave up seven hits and five runs while throwing 84 pitches.

This time he threw 99 pitches to beat Philadelphia. If all goes well, Strasburg could make his next start at home this coming weekend against the Milwaukee Brewers. His fastball was around 94 miles per hour and he struck out the side in the fifth inning, twice getting batters looking with a 79-mph curve.

Washington improved to 66-66 and pulled to within eight games of first-place Atlanta. The Nationals are still 4 games back of second-place Philadelphia, now 70-61.

The win was also a major milestone for Washington reliever Justin Miller, who posted the first save this season and with the Nationals.

The broad-shouldered California native last picked up a save in the majors while pitching for the Colorado Rockies in 2015. He now has two career saves.

He was signed prior to this season to a minor league deal with the Nationals. Miller has also won six games out of the bullpen with just one loss in 39 outings this year for Washington.

“He’s a consummate professional,” Martinez said of Miller, who pitched a scoreless ninth after reliever Ryan Madson gave up a homer in the eighth to Rhys Hoskins.

“I had a good outing in New York (last weekend). Today I was trying to get back at them,” Miller said. “I fell behind early but was able to get back in the count.”

Rookie left fielder Juan Soto had two hits and a walk and catcher Matt Wieters hit a homer.

But the night belonged to Strasburg, who has been limited to 16 starts this year due to injuries.

“It was more consistent than the last one. That is a positive,” Strasburg said. “We had some timely hitting and it was a good team win.”

“He has great pitches and he knows how to use them,” Wieters said of Strasburg.

The Nationals will face a tough test Tuesday night when Cy Young candidate Aaron Nola (15-3, 2.13) takes the mound for the Phillies against Washington ace Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.13). Nola pitched eight scoreless innings on Thursday to beat Washington at Nationals Park.

“Get good pitches to hit,” Wieters said of Nola. “If we chase [pitches] out of the zone, it will be a long day.”

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