Jeff Roberson
April 29, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) Stephen Strasburg shrugged off a rocky start. The St. Louis Cardinals couldn't touch him later on.

Strasburg struck out seven of eight to begin his third time through the order and the Washington Nationals got home runs from Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa in a 5-4 victory on Friday night.

''That's their M.O. They're going to come out hacking and hunting the heaters,'' said Strasburg, who gave up two runs on four hits in the first inning and no runs on four hits his last six. ''It was not the way I wanted to start it off but I just kept telling myself to keep pitching and trust that it's going to come.''

Strasburg, who had nine strikeouts overall, is 4-0 for the first time in his career.

''It's easy to kind of hit the panic button after a couple runs early, but that's not how I want to go about it,'' Strasburg said. ''If it's just not my day it's not my day, but I'm going to fight to the very end.''

Taylor's second leadoff homer of the year ended a 22-inning scoreless drought for the Nationals. Espinosa's first of the season was a two-run shot that capped a four-run fourth against Mike Leake (0-3).

''We didn't want to stay on a slide like that,'' Espinosa said. ''To get this win and get back on a positive note, I think it was real important.''

The rally started when the Nationals successfully challenged a caught stealing call against on Anthony Rendon, who had led off the inning with a single. Leake had anticipated the call might be overturned because he thought Rendon had beaten the tag.

''We've won a couple lately but, boy we were like 0-for-the-world before that,'' Baker said. ''That was big, that was real big.''

Strasburg (4-0) gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings with one walk. He has 29 strikeouts in 22 1-3 innings his last three outings. Jonathan Papelbon earned his eighth save in nine chances for Washington, which is 5-0 in Strasburg's starts.

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer off Blake Treinen in the eighth for St. Louis, which is 18-9 against Washington the last five seasons. Adams and Matt Holliday had an RBI apiece in the first.

Leake, who got a five-year, $80 million free agent deal, gave up five runs in seven innings and has a 5.83 ERA.

''I just let it get away for one inning,'' Leake said. ''Results might not show up but mentally and through my process I think I'm getting better.''

Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth had an RBI apiece in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: C Wilson Ramos (bereavement list) could return this weekend after leaving following the death of his grandfather. Baker said the team would be patient, adding ''death has no season.''

Cardinals: OF Tommy Pham (side) could begin a rehab assignment next week. 2B Kolten Wong (flu) is ready but manager Mike Matheny went with the hot hand in Jedd Gyorko, who doubled in three at-bats. Jhonny Peralta (thumb) will be re-evaluated in 10 days and GM John Mozeliak envisioned a rehab starting on or about May 21. RHP Mitch Harris (shoulder) will get a second opinion on Monday.

UP NEXT

Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.24) is holding opponents to a .198 average, among the league's best. Joe Ross (2-0, 0.54) was among just five NL starters to not allow a homer, with a minimum of 20 innings.

IN THE CLUB

Former ace Chris Carpenter and former player and manager Joe Torre were the top two vote-getters in online balloting for the third induction class to the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Outfielder Terry Moore, who played alongside Hall of Famer Stan Musial, and Sam Breadon, president and majority owner from 1920-47, also are in the four-man class that'll be inducted Aug. 27.

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