Bill Ladson

Stras looks postseason-ready with six scoreless

Righty strikes out seven, gives up two hits in final regular-season start

Stras looks postseason-ready with six scoreless

WASHINGTON -- If Saturday was any indication, right-hander Stephen Strasburg is ready for the National League Division Series. He pitched six shutout innings and helped the Nationals beat the Marlins, 5-1, at Nationals Park.

While an announcement hasn't been made, Strasburg is expected to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS against the winner of the NL Wild Card game. It will be Strasburg's first playoff appearance. He missed the 2012 postseason because he was on an innings limit after having Tommy John surgery two years earlier.

"I'm really excited," Strasburg said about pitching in the playoffs. "I'm going to keep throwing and give it everything I have. ... I'm going to get back to work and get ready for whenever I make the start."

Strasburg (14-11) wasn't limited in any way on Saturday. In fact, he pitched like a Game 1 starter, allowing two hits and striking out seven. The Marlins came close to scoring in the third inning. They had Jeff Mathis on third with two outs, but Christian Yelich struck out looking to end the threat.

"Today is as good as he has been all month," manager Matt Williams said about Strasburg. "Really good fastball -- 96, 97 [miles per hour]. Changeup and curveball to go with it. He threw it where he wanted to. [He has been] just the same as he has been that last four or five starts."

Marlins manager Mike Redmond acknowledged his team couldn't touch Strasburg.

"It was a tough day for us, offensively. We didn't get anything going, really," Redmond said. "Just a couple of hits. Probably one hit was a little bit of a gift out there."

During the month of September, Strasburg was nearly unhittable, going 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 32 innings. Opponents had a .194 batting average against the right-hander during the month. Strasburg used both sides of the plate and had excellent fastball command.

"He feels great," Williams said. "His strength is good. He is throwing the ball the way he wants it to. He is making pitches when he needs to. That's typical Stephen of what we've seen all year long. I think he is pitching really well. He is ready for next week."

Strasburg also helped himself with the bat in the second inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Strasburg bunted the ball toward Marlins right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who threw Strasburg out at first base. But Bryce Harper hustled home after he saw the pitcher throw to first, and he slid in head-first just before the tag.

In the fifth inning, Eovaldi found himself in trouble again, when Washington loaded the bases with no outs. Adam LaRoche grounded out, but Denard Span scored on the play.

Span had two hits in the game, tying him with Cristian Guzman for the franchise's single-season hits mark (183), and breaking Guzman's multihit game record with his 58th.

"I feel good. Christian Guzman was a [heck] of a player," Span said. "I watched him coming up in the Minors with Minnesota. It's just an honor to be mentioned with his name and to be mentioned in the same sentence as tying a record or breaking a record."

Asdrubal Cabrera broke the game open with a three-run double off Carter Capps in the eighth inning. Prior to Saturday, Cabrera was in a 9-for-51 (.176) slump with just four RBIs.

"[Cabrera] had been a little jumpy, not seeing the ball as well as he would like to, but he is a pro," Williams said. "He has been there a time or two with the bases loaded. He has the ability to calm it down and get a good pitch to hit in that at-bat. It was a really meaningful base hit."

After Strasburg left the game, Jerry Blevins and Tyler Clippard blanked the Marlins in the seventh and eighth, and Drew Storen allowed an unearned run in the ninth before sealing the win.

The Nationals improved their record to 95-66.

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