WASHINGTON -- In one of the most dominant outings of his career, Stephen Strasburg racked up a career-high 15 strikeouts Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park as he led the Nationals to a 3-0 victory against the Padres. Strasburg had command of all of his pitches and mixed them all into different counts, which flummoxed San Diego's offense for the entire game, as he surrendered just three hits in seven brilliant innings.
"I think the fact that you will go to any one of those pitches keeps them off any single one," Strasburg said. "So that's just a part of pitching, keeping them off balance, changing speeds, keep them guessing."
The Padres received a strong outing from left-hander Clayton Richard, who, despite giving up 10 hits, limited the Nats to three runs thanks to five strikeouts and a pair of timely pickoffs on the basepaths.
But the San Diego offense never threatened much against Strasburg, outside of a busy first inning in which he loaded the bases. Strasburg escaped by whiffing Austin Hedges to end the frame -- after striking out Ryan Schimpf looking with a filthy breaking pitch two batters earlier.
"We had him on the ropes the first inning," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We had the opportunity with the bases loaded, weren't able to cash in. The 3-2 breaking ball he threw backdoor to Schimpf was probably the biggest pitch of the game. We were sitting in that situation with an opportunity to get ahead early. Sometimes, with the best pitchers in the game, if you don't get them in the first three innings, they become harder and harder to get to. We had our chance there in the first, we didn't take advantage of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Strasburg strikes out 15: Strasburg had reached 14 strikeouts in a game twice in his career -- during his Major League debut in 2010 and in September '15 -- but he had never exceeded the mark. But facing his final batter of the night in the seventh, Strasburg recorded his 15th strikeout against Padres outfielder Franchy Cordero, the team's No. 23 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline, who was making his Major League debut.
"It's pretty cool, but there's another game five, six days from now," Strasburg said. "So maybe I"ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow." More >
Taylor homers again: Taylor gave the Nationals some much needed breathing room in the sixth inning off Richard, launching a two-run homer to extend Washington's lead. Taylor has homered in consecutive games for the first time since 2015 as he continues to stay hot at the plate since taking over as the the Nats' starting center fielder. He is hitting .315 with five doubles, two triples and four homers since Adam Eaton went on the disabled list with a torn ACL.
"Just trying to stay in my zone, stick to my approach," Taylor said. "Not try to do too much. My swing gets long when I'm thinking about driving the ball out of the ballpark. Just take my singles and look for my pitch."
"Strasburg 15 strikeouts, career high, Michael Taylor swinging the bat well, big two-run homer. I haven't done anything, which is great." -- Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, who is filling in as the Nats manager while Dusty Baker attends his son's high school graduation
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Max Scherzer and Strasburg are the first pair of teammates with consecutive 13-strikeout games since Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco did it for the Indians against the Rays in July 2015.
"I know when you have those types of combinations, they feed off each other," Speier said. "There's a little competitiveness within the starting pitchers that is very healthy. Somebody comes in and throws well, and the next guy wants to throw well today. It's a win-win for us."
Strasburg's 15 strikeouts Saturday are tied for the fourth most in a single game in Nationals history.
YOUTH IS SERVED
The Padres' young lineup has been on the wrong end of baseball's last three 14-plus-strikeout games by a starting pitcher. Dan Straily whiffed them 14 times earlier this season, and Jon Gray racked up 16 last September.
After Saturday's game, Green spoke about his desire for the young hitters in his lineup to work better battle at-bats when they're down in the count.
"You talk a lot about two-strike approach and finding a 'B' hack where you put the ball in play and you spread out, choke up, whatever it is you have to do to put the ball in play," Green said. "The reality is guys haven't done that often. ... Then you're outside of your comfort zone, because that hasn't been your habit as you've come through the Minor League system."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the bottom of the third inning, the Nationals challenged a force out on a double-play grounder, arguing that shortstop Erick Aybar did not touch second base after receiving the relay before throwing to first. After review, the call on the field stood, and the inning was over.
WHAT'S NEXT Padres:Jhoulys Chacin has struggled immensely away from Petco Park this season, posting a 10.94 ERA in six road starts (compared with a 0.67 mark at home). He'll look to turn that around Sunday, when the Padres face the Nationals at 10:35 a.m. PT.
Nationals:Joe Ross takes the mound for Sunday's series finale against the Padres at 1:35 p.m. ET. Ross is coming off his best outing of the year when he threw eight innings of one-run ball.