Strasburg improves to 9-0, Nationals down Cardinals 10-2
WASHINGTON (AP) Jayson Werth noticed a difference in Stephen Strasburg in spring training and felt the ace was headed for a big season.
So far, so good.
Strasburg won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season and Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam to help the Washington Nationals close out the season series against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 10-2 win on Sunday.
Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during Washington's three-run fourth inning off Michael Wacha (2-6).
Strasburg (9-0) pitched six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a split of the four-game series. The Nationals went 5-2 against the Cardinals this season.
Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).
He has kept right on rolling after finalizing a $175 million, seven-year contract with Washington on May 10.
''He's certainly earning his money,'' Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
Strasburg also became the first starter in franchise history to win his first nine decisions in a season, one more than Pedro Martinez in 1997. Washington is 11-0 this year in games started by Strasburg, who lowered his ERA to 2.69 and tied Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta for the NL lead in wins.
Strasburg wouldn't give in to postgame questions about the streak's significance.
''It's all about trying to move forward and learn from each outing,'' Strasburg said. He later added, ''We've got a long way to go.''
Werth sensed a change in the quiet Strasburg before the start of the season.
''He was talking a lot, which is always a good sign from Stephen,'' Werth said. ''He doesn't always say too much. Early on in spring training it felt like he was going to have a big year.''
Brandon Moss hit a solo home run off Strasburg for a short-lived lead. Matt Holliday had three hits for the Cardinals, who left 10 runners on base.
Wacha allowed three runs and struck out six over six innings, but dropped his sixth straight decision.
''Michael was good today,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ''Shame that we couldn't score him some runs.''
Werth's drive off Dean Kiekhefer highlighted the decisive five-run seventh as Washington batted around in its final game before a three-city road trip. Anthony Rendon started the inning with a homer after St. Louis made it 3-2 in the top of the inning on Matt Adams' sacrifice fly.
Wacha was unable to complete more than four innings in any of his three previous starts while allowing 20 earned runs combined.
Though he worked deeper against the Nationals, the fourth inning was costly.
Following Michael Taylor's leadoff double, Harper's single tied it at 1.
Ryan Zimmerman's one-out double put runners on second and third. After Rendon struck out, Ramos drove in both runners with a two-out single on a pitch Wacha said ''just leaked back over the plate.''
GET THEM HOME
The Nationals went 1 for 13 with no RBIs with runners in scoring position over the first three games of the series. That futility ended in the fourth inning on RBI hits from Harper and Ramos as Washington went 3 for 6.
Cardinals: Adams went 0 for 2 with a walk in his first start since exiting Thursday's game with mid-back stiffness. He had a two-run, pinch-hit double in Saturday's 9-4 win.
Nationals: RHP Matt Belisle (right calf strain) allowed two runs over two innings Saturday in his third rehab appearance with Single-A Potomac. Belisle visited Washington's clubhouse Sunday and said he expects to pitch for Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday before Washington decides on his next step.
Cardinals: St. Louis opens a three-game series at Milwaukee with RHP Carlos Martinez (4-5, 4.25 ERA) to face RHP Junior Guerra (3-0, 3.30 ERA).
Nationals: Washington's nine-game road trip opens Monday in Philadelphia. The Nationals' Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71 ERA) will face fellow RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97 ERA).