WASHINGTON (AP) — After Stephen Strasburg failed to get out of the fifth inning in his second start this season, he had a little chat with Nationals teammate Ian Desmond about changing his approach on the mound.
"It was just: I don't need to go out there and trick guys, and I don't need to go out there and be perfect," Strasburg recalled. "I just got to attack the strike zone, let my stuff work."
Consider it done. In his third — and by far the best — outing of 2014, Strasburg struck out 12 in 6 2-3 innings on a day Washington really needed to rest its relievers, and Desmond and Jayson Werth homered, leading the Nationals past the Miami Marlins 7-1 Thursday for a three-game sweep.
"We actually talked after his last start, and he told me some things that he wanted to work on. And to see him go out and execute it today, exactly the way he wanted to change and what he was going to mess with, was pretty good to see," said Desmond, whose grand slam off reliever Arquimedes Caminero in the eighth broke open a tight game. "That's maturity. Everyone forgets how young he is. He's going to keep on getting better and better and today was proof of that."
The 25-year-old Strasburg (1-1) got 14 consecutive outs in one stretch and allowed only three hits, including Marcell Ozuna's homer in the seventh. The right-hander's lone walk was to the last batter he faced.
Washington's starter Wednesday, Jordan Zimmermann, left after a career-low 1 2-3 innings, leaving the bullpen "taxed," as manager Matt Williams put it. The Nationals won that game 10-7 on Werth's go-ahead grand slam in the eighth, and this time he connected in the third — a two-run shot off Tom Koehler (1-1) that put Washington ahead 2-0.
Werth hit a 3-0 pitch just to the left of straightaway center. After driving in a total of one run over the season's first seven games, Werth has seven RBIs in the past two.
"Got the green light from Matty," Werth said, referring to the manager. "Got a pitch up that was elevated and put a good swing on it."
Said Koehler: "Got to do a better job of ... executing."
Strasburg lasted 4 1-3 innings in his previous start, a 6-2 loss to Atlanta on Sunday, and he entered Thursday 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA. But with the temperature 67 degrees at the unusual 4:05 p.m. start, and shadows creeping across the diamond, he was much better against Miami, mixing a 95-96 mph fastball with a seemingly unhittable changeup.
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