Strasburg Returns to Dominance; Offense Offers Support

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Stephen Strasburg finally got some run support, and finally earned the third win of his much-ballyhooed major league career.

    The rookie right-hander gave up a homer to the first batter he faced Friday night then shut down San Francisco, allowing three hits in six innings, and Adam Dunn hit two homers, leading the Washington Nationals past the Giants 8-1.

    It was Strasburg's first win in almost a month.

    Frequently clocked at 99 mph on the outfield scoreboard, and mixing in knee-buckling breaking balls, Strasburg (3-2, 2.32 ERA) finished with eight strikeouts and one walk. He departed in style, striking out Pat Burrell swinging on a 98 mph fastball to end the sixth, then collecting handshakes and high-fives in the dugout.

    After the "He did what?!" beginning to Strasburg's stay in Washington -- 2-0, 2.19 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings in his first two starts, on June 8 and 13 -- he went 0-2 over his next four appearances. One problem: Entering Friday, the Nationals scored one run for Strasburg over the previous 25 innings he was in the game -- and zero over his past 18.

    They took care of that against Matt Cain (6-8), who has lost four consecutive decisions. He allowed eight runs -- seven earned -- and 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings, including Dunn's solo shot into the second deck in right in the fourth inning and two-run homer to center in the seventh.

    Those gave Dunn 22 homers this season, five in the past three games.

    But Washington trailed in this game before ending San Francisco's four-game winning streak. Pitching before an announced crowd of 34,723 -- almost exactly double the 17,364 of a night earlier -- Strasburg tried to put a 97 mph fastball past leadoff hitter Andres Torres on a 3-1 count. Torres drove the pitch off the facing of the second deck in right, giving him a homer in three consecutive games and four of the past six.

    It was Torres's second leadoff homer of 2010 -- and the third long ball that Strasburg has allowed in the majors. He threw nine balls among his 17 pitches in that inning.

    That kept alive a dubious streak: The Nationals have allowed a first-inning run in nine consecutive games.

    But by the second, Strasburg was back to his hard-to-figure-out self, getting two strikeouts on nasty breaking balls and throwing 11 of 13 pitches for strikes. He struck out two more in the third, including Torres to end the inning. Strasburg, who turns 22 on July 20, hopped off the mound and muttered something -- no doubt pleased to have solved Torres this time.

    The Giants did not hit a ball on the ground until the fourth inning, when Buster Posey -- San Francisco's 14th batter of the game -- reached on an infield single. Until then, there was the homer, the walk, five strikeouts, five liners or flies to the outfield, and one infield popup.

    With two on and two out in the fourth, Strasburg struck out Pablo Sandoval swinging at a high, 99 mph fastball. Sandoval chucked his bat and his helmet.

    San Francisco's third hit was a leadoff double by Travis Ishikawa in the fifth. He moved to third with one out, but Strasburg stranded him by striking out Cain and getting Aaron Rowand -- pinch hitting for Torres, who left with a tight left groin muscle -- to fly out.

    Strasburg threw 95 pitches, 61 for strikes.

    Washington tied the game in its half of the first, when Roger Bernadina doubled, then scored on Cain's throwing error on a pickoff attempt.