Missed chances spoil Strasburg's return from DL

Missed chances spoil Strasburg's return from DL

Missed chances spoil Strasburg's return from DL

CLEVELAND -- One thing can be said about the Nationals on Sunday at Progressive Field: They had enough scoring opportunities, but they ended up getting blanked by the Indians, 2-0. Cleveland took two out of three games this weekend, while the Nationals are now back at the .500 mark with a 34-34 record. Last year, The Nationals were 40-27 after 67 games.

The Nationals had right-hander Corey Kluber on the ropes throughout the game, but he left unscathed. He pitched eight shutout innings, allowed seven hits and struck out eight batters.

"He was so good all day," Indians manager Terry Francona said about Kluber. "From pitch 1, he was aggressive with his fastball. I don't think he even threw a changeup today. Even vs. left-handers, he just was in attack mode.

"That was really fun to watch. I wish we could have had about five [runs] just to give a little cushion, but that was really fun to watch."

Outfielder Jayson Werth said Kluber had some of the best stuff the Nationals have seen all year.

"I tell you what, that guy that threw for them today ... the stuff that he had, that's probably top-five stuff that we'll see all year," Werth said. "He had some really good stuff. Especially when he had to make pitches, he even stepped it up a little bit."

Washington had a chance to score in the fourth inning. The Nationals had runners on first and third with one out, but Adam LaRoche, Werth and Ian Desmond struck out to end the threat.

It would get worse as the game went along. In the sixth inning, Denard Span fouled a ball off his right foot for the third time this season. He was clearly in pain, but he remained in the game. He reached base on an infield single and then went to second on an error by first baseman Mark Reynolds. Anthony Rendon followed with a hard-hit single to right field. Span normally could have scored, but he was in a lot of pain and had to hold up at third.

"I couldn't move too much. Even if [third-base coach Trent Jewett] wanted me to score, I don't think I would have had too much of a chance," Span said. "It was hurt before that, but it didn't feel good just to put pressure on it."

Still, the Nationals had runners on first and third with no outs, but Ryan Zimmerman struck out and LaRoche hit into a double play.

It was shocking to see what happened an inning later. The Nationals had the bases loaded with no outs, but the ball wasn't hit in the right place as far as Washington was concerned. Jhonatan Solano lined out to Reynolds, who then doubled up Steve Lombardozzi at first.

"You can't get doubled off like that. It's unacceptable," Lombardozzi said. "You learn that when you are growing up as a kid. You can't get doubled off like that."

Roger Bernadina then grounded out to shortstop Mike Aviles to end the inning.

"I liked the guys we had up there, but we didn't get the job done," manager Davey Johnson said. "It's just a frustrating day all round."

After the game, LaRoche was clearly upset about the offense, which went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. It was arguably the most upset he has been since he has joined the Nationals in 2011.

"It's pretty frustrating. It's kind of the same old story, another day," LaRoche said. "I wish we had a solid answer, because we would have done it two months ago.

"Today was a little different, because we did have a bunch of guys on base. We had one or two chances per game. Today, it seemed like every inning, we had something going. We either didn't put it in play or hit it in the wrong spot. It gets old."

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg (3-6) made his first start since May 31 because of a strained lat muscle and he was solid, going five innings and allowing a run on one hit. He was on a pitch count and threw 82 pitches.

With one out, Jason Kipnis drew a walk, stole second and went to third on an error by Solano. Kipnis then scored on a single by Carlos Santana.

"It was good to be out there, No. 1," Strasburg said. "It has been two weeks, I think I just wanted to go out there and pound the strike zone as much as I could. I was a little hit-or-miss. It was kind of expected. I really can't worry about it too much."

Right-hander Craig Stammen was on the mound when the Indians scored their final run of the game in the eighth inning, when Michael Bourn came home on a sacrifice fly by Kipnis.

"I can handle getting beat. I don't like when we beat ourselves, and we had plenty of chances and didn't do anything with it," LaRoche said.

Strasburg believes that the offense can get its act together.

"We still have a long way to go. I have a lot of faith in these guys," Strasburg said. "I know how hard every single guy in the clubhouse works. We are going to figure it out. When we do, it's going to be fun."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.