The bottom line looked good for Strasburg, who lowered his ERA to 2.66. But he was able to do so because Miami was 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position against him.
"That's the reason we lost," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think we had a golden opportunity. We had one of the best pitchers in the game on the ropes, but we didn't take advantage. If you want to be good, you've got to get this thing done."
For the game, the Marlins were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and they left 11 on base.
A microcosm of the game was in the ninth inning, when the Marlins loaded the bases with no outs against Tyler Clippard, who worked out of the jam.
"With a pitcher like [Strasburg], you've got to take advantage and try to punch him when he's down," Guillen said. "As soon as you let him breathe, that's what you're going to get. We missed a lot of [opportunities]."
The lack of run support certainly hurt Ricky Nolasco, who gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, after starting off by not allowing a hit through four innings.
Strasburg helped himself at the plate with a two-out, RBI single in the fifth, which produced the first run of the game.
"I feel I was mixing it up pretty good, and I stayed away from the barrel," Nolasco said. "That's just the way the game goes. I just had to battle to do what I could do to keep us as close as possible."
Washington has taken two of three in the four-game set, and moved 10 games ahead of Miami in the National League East.
Strasburg was backed by some terrific defense. Nats center fielder Roger Bernadina ran down a long drive by John Buck with Emilio Bonifacio on second base in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Bernadina snared Logan Morrison's liner with runners on second and third.
"What adds on to the frustration is we actually hit the ball and they made some plays," Buck said. "Bernadina stole probably two runs, or three or four.
"We had some good at-bats. We had [Strasburg's] pitch count up. We had him on the ropes. We'd hit the ball hard, and they'd make a play. Nevertheless, we've got to find a way to get it through."
The Nationals' first hit was a single to left in the fifth by Michael Morse. It started a two-run inning that deflated Miami.
With two outs, Jhonatan Solano was intentionally walked to get to Strasburg, who took advantage of an elevated 2-1 fastball, slapping an RBI single to right. Steve Lombardozzi's single to right made it a two-run lead.
Even though Strasburg is batting .385, Guillen said getting to the pitcher was the right move strategically.
"I don't care if the everyday player is there with no bat," Guillen said. "I will attack the pitcher. But to be honest with you, pitchers have been kicking our butts the whole year. But I'm not going to change my philosophy."
In the first three games, the Marlins have scored just three runs, but they were able to win, 2-1, behind Mark Buehrle's seven-inning gem on Saturday. Sunday also marked the ninth time Miami has been shut out this season.
A potentially big inning that got away from Miami came in the third.
They loaded the bases with one out, and had mass confusion on the basepaths after Carlos Lee's single to center.
Nolasco, who singled to open the inning, moved to second on Jose Reyes' single to right. Lee singled to center, and Nolasco rounded third hard before being held by third-base coach Joe Espada.
As Nolasco headed back to third, Reyes was swiftly approaching the base, and Lee was on his way to second. But Bernadina's throw to the plate sailed way over Solano's head. When the scramble ended, Nolasco, Reyes and Lee returned to their respective bases.
Guillen defended Espada's decision to hold Nolasco.
"People can think what they want after the fact," Guillen said. "The third-base coach cannot assume he's going to throw the ball over the catcher's head."
Nolasco noted that he would have been out if the throw was on line.
"I think a good throw gets me," Nolasco said. "He held me up at the last minute, and it was a bad throw. Roger Bernadina is a pretty good outfielder with a good arm. If he does throw a strike to home plate, I'm sure they're going to get me out. There is nothing you can do there. You can't second-guess Joe in that situation. I'm a pitcher, and I don't have the best speed."
Strasburg was able to get out of the jam by striking out Morrison and getting Hanley Ramirez to ground out sharply to third base, with Ryan Zimmerman making a nice backhanded play.
"[Strasburg] pitched with the stuff he had. He used his fastball more than he relied on offspeed stuff and tricking hitters," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He went right after them with his fastball and he made better pitches when he got in a jam. He made great pitches with location, but everything was off the fastball."