PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals had enough firepower Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, even without Bryce Harper in the lineup.
Harper sat because of groin tightness, but the Nats hit three home runs in a 4-2 victory over the Phillies to improve to an MLB-best 20-9. Stephen Strasburg not only pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, but he also hit a solo home run to left-center field in the second inning to hand Washington a 2-0 lead.
"I didn't like those two runs. They kind of sucked," Pivetta said. "That was a big turning point in the game."
Nats right-hander Matt Albers picked up his first career save in his 461st career appearance.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Strasburg battles: The Phillies had few chances against Strasburg, but when they did, they could not capitalize. They had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth, but after Cameron Rupp struck out swinging, Strasburg intentionally walked Freddy Galvis to load the bases to face Pivetta. Pivetta struck out swinging to end the inning.
Strasburg also battled through a cramp in his left calf in the sixth inning, which he said he was not concerned about, and gutted out a 119-pitch performance.
"He was outstanding," Nats manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, he wanted it, big time. First time I've seen him kind of mad and showing emotion, which is fine with me."
Pivetta stumbles: The Nats had runners on first and third with one out in the first when Zimmerman hit a ball just a few feet from home plate. Pivetta fielded the ball, but stumbled and could not make the throw to first, loading the bases. Rendon followed with a single to center to score Jayson Werth to make it 1-0.
"My leg buckled," Pivetta said. "I've done it before. It just happens like that." More >
"We're having enough trouble getting innings out of our starters. We need that as much as anything right now." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on if he thought about pinch-hitting for Pivetta with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Albers had the second-most games finished without a save (102) in baseball history before Friday's save. Ryan Webb holds the record (105). No other pitcher in baseball history has finished more than 63 games without a save, according to Baseball Reference.
"I'm kind of glad it's over with, but it's just one," Albers said. "It's not really moving me up the charts too much." More >
OUTFIELD SAVES SIX
The Phillies kept it close with their outfield defense. The Nats had runners on second and third with two outs in the third, when Chris Heisey hit a line drive to left-center field. Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera made a nice diving catch to end the inning and save the Phillies a couple runs. Herrera covered 54 feet in 3.9 seconds to make the catch, according to Statcast™. Michael Saunders made a sliding catch with the bases loaded to end the seventh. Aaron Altherr made an over-the-shoulder catch with two on to end the eighth.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: With a vacant spot in their rotation after they demoted Joe Ross to Triple-A, the Nationals will turn to right-hander A.J. Cole for Saturday's 7:05 p.m. ET game at Citizens Bank Park. Cole, who will be making his 2017 debut, has struggled to a 5.29 ERA in 11 games (nine starts) in his Major League career so far.
Phillies: Right-hander Vince Velasquez (2-2, 5.47 ERA) pitches the second game of the three-game series against the Nationals. He is 2-0 with a 3.63 ERA in his last three starts, but he still has not pitched more than 6 1/3 innings in any start this season. The Phillies are hoping Velasquez can pitch a little deeper, giving their bullpen a break.