"Big change between the last three outings Ricky had and today," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "The last three outings, he couldn't find the strike zone and ran into trouble. Today, he was throwing more strikes. ... And when Ricky's throwing strikes, he can be effective. He had all his pitches working today."
Nolasco was sharp throughout, commanding the strike zone (78 of his 115 pitches were strikes) as he held the Nats hitless into the fifth. The only baserunner he allowed through the first four innings was Jayson Werth, who reached on a Greg Dobbs error to lead off the game.
Nolasco retired the next 14 batters he faced, and would have carried a no-hitter into the sixth, but Danny Espinosa reached with two outs in the fifth on a wild pitch. Nolasco struck out Espinosa on a ball in the dirt that trickled to the backstop, allowing Espinosa to reach first.
The Nats took advantage of the extra at-bat, as Kurt Suzuki singled to right to break up Nolasco's no-hit bid.
The righty escaped trouble in the sixth, when the Nats got two aboard with one out before Nolasco retired the next two hitters. Two more got on base in the ninth with the outcome well in hand, but Nolasco worked through it for his eighth career complete game and third shutout.
"I was able to pitch inside to a lot of guys, and that was the equalizer -- just being able to throw inside for strikes," Nolasco said.
Nolasco worked with a lead all night thanks to Justin Ruggiano, who hit a one-out solo shot to left-center field in the first inning off Strasburg. The home run was Ruggiano's 13th of the season, and it snapped Strasburg's 27-inning scoreless streak against the Marlins.
"It's big, whether it's Strasburg or any other pitcher. Run support helps a lot with the way you pitch," Nolasco said. "I was able to challenge a little more early in the count, but it's nice to get run support."
The Marlins took a different approach to Strasburg than they did in previous outings, something the All-Star righty noticed but did not adjust to. Ruggiano credited hitting coach Eduardo Perez with preparing the Marlins well for Strasburg during the off-day.
The new approach worked for Miami, which added another run in the first on a Giancarlo Stanton single. But the Marlins didn't stop there against Strasburg, plating three in the third inning thanks to an Espinosa error and a two-run Gregg Dobbs single.
Miami got a run in the fourth and fifth innings on RBIs from Ruggiano, who had a career-high four hits, and Donovan Solano, who extended his hit streak to a career-high 11 games, before Strasburg was pulled after five frames.
"He's the toughest I've faced in the game as far as overall stuff and his weapons," Ruggiano said. "It was nice to get out early, and I think Ricky set the tone the rest of the way and allowed us to relax and swing freely throughout the night."
Tuesday marked the first time in Strasburg's career that he allowed seven runs in a road start. His previous high was four. The seven runs also matched the number of runs the Marlins scored against the righty in seven previous matchups (40 1/3 innings).
"I just kept on trying to do the same thing, and they were cheating, cheating and they got me," Strasburg said. "Learn from it and just got to remember to trust my stuff, and next time out I've got to go out there and really just read what I see and pitch to it, basically."
Strasburg wasn't the only Nats pitcher the Marlins took advantage of. They scored two in the sixth against reliever Craig Stammen when Stanton dropped a single into shallow center.
"I think we're capable of doing this -- I wouldn't say every night -- but we're definitely capable of playing better as a whole throughout the season more so than what we showed this year," Ruggiano said. "If this team learns how to win, who knows, it will bring some momentum for next year."