Strasburg sizzles as Desmond drives in five

Starter allows one run in six innings; shortstop homer shy of cycle

Strasburg sizzles as Desmond drives in five

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals' starting pitching continues to be on a hot streak. This time it was Stephen Strasburg doing the job Monday night at AT&T Park. He pitched six solid innings as the Nationals pounded the Giants, 9-2.

The Giants suffered their largest defeat of the season, while the Nationals are tied with the Braves for first place in the National League East. Atlanta defeated the Rockies, 3-1. The Marlins, who were in a three-way tie for first place Sunday night, had the night off.

The Nationals have won eight out of their last 10 games and manager Matt Williams declined to say his team is on a nice run.

"Tonight is over. We go tomorrow. That's all we can concentrate on is tomorrow," Williams said. "We face a really good left-handed pitcher [in Madison Bumgarner]. We won tonight and that's good. But we have to concentrate on playing a good game tomorrow."

Infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen wasn't afraid to say that the Nationals are currently on a run.

"It's bound to happen at some point to play more complete games as far as offense, defense and pitching," said Frandsen, who went 1-for-5. "Is this the best we could do? All I know is we continue to battle, play hard and be prepared. I feel like our guys -- how hard they played, how hard we worked when the big guys went down -- pick each other up. I feel that's coming to fruition. It's one game, especially in this series against one hell of a team."

Even Giants manager Bruce Bochy took notice that the Nationals have been hot of late.

"They have some good hitters in that lineup and they've been on a roll," Bochy said. "They played well in San Diego, swung the bats well in a tough park to hit in, so they came in here with a lot of confidence."

Strasburg allowed one run on four hits. He retired 13 of the last 14 hitters he faced. The run Strasburg allowed occurred in the second inning, when Tyler Colvin scored on a single by Brandon Crawford.

Strasburg could have gone longer but he suffered back stiffness starting in the third inning and was taken out of the game after the Nationals scored five runs in the seventh inning.

"He continues to throw strikes," Williams said. "[The Giants are] a really good hitting team, they are swinging [the bat] well. Tonight he used his changeup and his curveball effectively. He was good."

Strasburg's outing points out how hot the Nats starters have been. In the last seven games, the rotation has a 1.23 ERA, 51 strikeouts and one walk. Strasburg was surprised when he heard about walks.

"I didn't even know. I hope I don't jinx it. I'm going to walk like five," Strasburg joked. "The biggest things is we are going out there and keep it simple. That's kind of our identity. We are going to go out there and pound the strike zone as a staff, let our defense do the work. We keep it close and let our offense win the game."

This was also a game to remember for shortstop Ian Desmond, who drove in a career-high five runs. He was also a home run short of the cycle.

On offense, it was all Nationals. They scored early and often against right-hander Ryan Vogelsong. In the first inning, Denard Span scored on a double by Jayson Werth. Desmond drove in the second run when he tripled home Wilson Ramos to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

Desmond did it again an inning later, when he drove in two runs with a single. In the seventh inning, the Nationals scored a combined five runs against Vogelsong and reliever George Kontos. Desmond highlighted the scoring with a two-run double.

"[Vogelsong] was a little bit off and when you find a team that's hot with the bats, they're probably going to take advantage of some pitches that are elevated there and they did," Bochy said.

In his last at-bat in the ninth inning, Desmond knew he was going for the cycle and then he flied out to Colvin in left field. After he realized that he was making an out, Demond slammed his bat to the ground and later apologized for his actions.

"For the record, I should not have slammed my bat after I got out," Desmond said. "If the [Giants] hear about this, I apologize. That was pretty bush league. I kind of got caught in the moment. You don't get that opportunity often."

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