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Stephen Strasburg labors in rain, but Rendon, Harper shine

September 25, 2018

Stephen Strasburg, whose focus is normally on pitching, made like a landscape artist on a wet Monday night at Nationals Park.

He called for drying agents to be put on the mound in the fourth inning and a few minutes later a batboy brought a tongue depressor for his cleats. But the right-hander lasted just four innings as the Washington Nationals won 7-3 over the last-place Miami Marlins, as Anthony Rendon hit a homer and drove in four runs.

Bryce Harper collected his career-high 100th RBI with a sacrifice fly in the fourth to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead. Harper has scored 99 runs and with 34 homers and could play in his last home game Wednesday.

After Eaton scored, Rendon hit a two-run homer on the next pitch and then rookie Juan Soto crushed the first pitch he saw from Marlins starter and loser Sandy Alcantara to give Washington a 6-1 lead. Washington catcher Matt Wieters also homered in the victory.

“Two of the best players in baseball,” Harper said on the field after the game of Soto and Rendon.

Rendon has reached base in a league-best 32 straight games and has 23 homers, while Soto has 21 homers as a teenager. Overlooked for the all-star honors again this year, Rendon had four RBI and is hitting a team-high .308 this season.

Strasburg was not nearly as successful in the light rain, which is typical at times when the conditions are less than ideal for the San Diego native.

He was removed for pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the last of the fourth, as Strasburg gave up just one run on three hits. But Strasburg walked four batters, hit another one and threw a wild pitch on a night he labored through 100 pitches just 59 for strikes.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said before the game Strasburg would make his next scheduled start in Colorado, where no rain is in the forecast for this weekend.

That certainly wasn’t the case at London-like Nationals Park, as the Monday game began under a steady drizzle with just a few hundred fans in the stands at the start and the end. The Nationals early in the game announced that fans could move to the lower level if they wanted, and many found seats with some cover.

With a light rain falling Harper scored his 99th run of the year on a two-run double in the first by Rendon, which gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead.

The Marlins had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Strasburg threw 38 pitches.

J.T. Riddle led off with a single and Miguel Rojas had an RBI double as the second batter of the game.

Strasburg, who threw 63 pitches in the first two innings, has made 21 starts this season. He lasted at least seven innings only five times and only once since May 7 did he pitch at least seven innings.

The winning pitcher was Washington reliever Justin Miller (7-1), who came on in the fifth to take the place of Strasburg. The announced crowd was 22,428, but there were a lot fewer on hand.

Soto continued to make a push for rookie of the year and Harper has played a role in the clubhouse, according to their manager.

“It’s huge. I remember the first day we were talking about calling up Soto, we talked to Bryce,” Martinez said. “He understands these young kids because he was 19 when he got called up.”

The Nationals last two home games are slated for Tuesday and Wednesday. Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.57) is on tap to pitch Tuesday for the Nationals against Jeff Brigham (0-3, 5.84) of the Marlins.

Tanner Roark is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Marlins. But that could change since Roark went home Sunday to be with his family in Georgia, Martinez said. Roark’s wife had the couple’s third child last week.

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