Nats 4, Marlins 0

Stephen Strasburg again had to fight through a long first inning. It took 34 pitches as the Florida Marlins fouled off one fastball after another from the rookie right-hander. Gaby Sanchez himself saw 12 pitches, eight of them fastballs, before finally drawing a walk when Strasburg turned to the curve in desperation.

But the Marlins didn’t break through in that inning. They didn’t even record a hit. When Cody Ross grounded out to end the second inning with runners at second and third it gave Strasburg the chance to settle in. He took full advantage. In the end, Strasburg pitched six shutout innings. That’s actually the first time he’s escaped a game unscathed. He allowed four hits in all with three walks and struck out seven batters and earned the win thanks to a four-run sixth inning by his teammates. That bumps Strasburg’s record to 4-2 overall with a 2.03 ERA in eight starts.

The first two innings told the story, though. Washington wants its prized rookie to learn this summer. Well, no better way than staring down some early adversity. The Marlins tried to wait him out as he sprayed fastball all over the plate and struggled to maintain the feel of his curve and change. With runners at first and second – both on walks – Strasburg got Jorge Cantu to fly out to right. The next four innings featured pitch counts of 14, 13, 9 and 14 pitches and Strasburg retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced – the lone hit an infield single by Hanley Ramirez that easily could have been an error on second baseman Cristian Guzman.

Thanks to that endless first inning Strasburg finished with a career-high 99 pitches, blowing a fastball past Ross to end his evening. In 48 2/3 innings he has given up 11 earned runs on 36 hits. He has 68 strikeouts to 14 walks and a 1.03 WHIP. Opponents’ batting average against is just .203. So on to Strasburg’s next start – Wednesday at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. The Nats improved to 40-50 overall with the victory on Friday night and are 7-6 in their last 13 games.

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