Strasburg, Zimmerman lead Nationals past Padres 8-3
WASHINGTON (AP) A dominant Stephen Strasburg was backed by an offense that banged out 10 hits, including a grand slam by Ryan Zimmerman.
Seems as if the Washington Nationals might finally be back on course following a horrid stretch that's thrust them into catch-up mode in the NL East.
Strasburg allowed two hits and struck out seven over six innings, and Washington beat the San Diego Padres 8-3 Tuesday night for its third straight victory.
Wilson Ramos also homered for the Nationals, who remained 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets. Not that anyone in the Washington clubhouse has noticed.
''It's too early to be scoreboard watching. It's still August,'' Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer said in front of his locker as the television showed the final out of Mets' 6-5 win over Philadelphia.
Come September, Washington might make things interesting if it can maintain its recent level of play. The Nationals have outscored the opposition 23-9 during their three-game winning streak, their longest run since an identical stretch bridging the All-Star break.
''It's all aspects,'' manager Matt Williams said. ''Certainly our starting pitchers have gone deeper in games. That's where it all starts. And I think our guys offensively that have come back are starting to feel their stroke and timing better. That adds to more runs per game, certainly.''
Center fielder Denard Span came off the 15-day disabled list after a 40-game absence with back spasms. Playing in the majors for the first since July 6, Span went 0 for 4 with a walk.
But Jayson Werth, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon are stroking the ball after spending significant time on the disabled list.
''This lineup we have right now, this is what we wanted all year long,'' slugger Bryce Harper said. ''If we play like this, I think we'll be just fine.''
Zimmerman connected in the sixth off Bud Norris, driving a 2-0 pitch into the seats beyond the right-field wall for an 8-2 lead. It was his fifth career slam, the first since 2013.
Strasburg (8-6) retired the final 15 batters he faced following a second-inning homer by Jedd Gyorko. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 1.51 ERA in his last seven starts and 5-1 in his career against the Padres.
''With the day off (Monday) I knew I was going to be well rested,'' Strasburg said. ''Just wanted to go out there and attack from the first pitch on.''
Gyorko homered twice, including a solo shot off Casey Janssen in the seventh, but San Diego lost a second straight game following five consecutive wins.
Very little went right for the Padres: Manager Pat Murphy was ejected in the seventh inning, Matt Kemp's 15-game hitting streak ended and Justin Upton failed to reach base for the first time in 19 games.
Murphy complained that a ball hit by Harper should have been called fair rather than foul. Harper ultimately walked and two batters later, Zimmerman went deep.
''Umpires miss calls, coaches miss calls,'' Murphy said. ''It's unfortunate because it played a role.''
James Shields (9-6) gave up four runs, eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. San Diego has lost 12 of his 15 starts since June 9.
''I felt like my stuff was all right,'' Shields said. ''It was just a matter of, they were taking good pitches and were hitting pitches that normally you get outs on.''
After Gyorko put the Padres up 2-0 with a two-run drive, Ramos tied it in the bottom of the second with his 11th home run, the second in two games following a 22-game drought.
Yunel Escobar hit an RBI double for Washington in the third, and doubles by Harper and Ian Desmond made it 4-2 in the fifth.
Shields left after a comebacker struck his lower body in the sixth inning. He threw a season-high 121 pitches.
Padres: Murphy said Bud Norris has been nursing a ''little adductor strain'' and will be examined.
Nationals: Span will work his way back slowly before playing on a daily basis, Williams said.
Padres: Winless in his last three starts, Tyson Ross (8-9, 3.22 ERA) seeks his first victory since Aug. 3 on Wednesday night.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (9-6, 3.98 ERA) has allowed 11 runs and 13 hits in his last two starts. He and Ross were teammates in Oakland in 2010-11.