video thumbnail

WSH@MIA: Strasburg fans seven over six shutout frames

By the time Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals' series opener against Cliff Lee and the Phillies on Tuesday night, the non-waiver Trade Deadline will have passed. With Strasburg continuing to pitch under a supposed innings limit for the season, the Deadline figures to provide some clarity as to the makeup of the Nats' rotation if -- or perhaps when -- he is shut down.

Washington reportedly expressed some interest in acquiring Zack Greinke, who was traded from the Brewers to the Angels on Friday. But given the hefty price an ace like Greinke demands near the Deadline, the Nats appear more likely to look within once Strasburg is shut down. At Triple-A Syracuse, the Nationals have depth in the form of John Lannan, who made a strong seven-inning start in a win over the Braves on July 21. The club also has the ability to shuffle around its rotation to limit the need for a fifth starter, setting itself up to be in solid shape for October.

Strasburg, 11-4 with a 2.76 ERA and a Major League-leading 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings, is coming off one of his finest outings of the season. Against the Mets on Wednesday, the 24-year-old right-hander struck out 11 batters, walked none and allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings. His lone mistake was a solo home run by Ike Davis in the second inning. The gem was a welcome bounce-back effort from Strasburg's previous start, on July 20, when he lasted just 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits while taking a no-decision in an 11-10 loss to the Braves.

"He's still learning to pitch in this league," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said after Strasburg's win over the Mets. "He's got such good stuff and he gets such great publicity, but he's still a work in progress. He's a perfectionist. It's really all about learning about yourself and not trying to be too perfect. And that's what he did today."

The Phillies, meanwhile, were sellers instead of buyers at the Deadline and enter the series at Nationals Park trailing the Nats by 16 1/2 games in the National League East. In winning eight of 11 games entering their weekend series with the Braves, the Phillies complicated their Deadline situation, providing a glimmer of hope that they can make a run at the NL Wild Card.

"I think a lot of guys are kind of thrown off by it and trying to figure out why and all that stuff," Blanton said of the Phillies' Deadline status. "We've won a lot, and all of a sudden you find yourself where you're at and it kind of makes your mind spin a little bit, and you're trying to figure out ways to get out of it. Before, we've always been on top, so even when you're not playing good in stretches, you're still relaxed and playing."

Nationals: Zimmerman clicking in July
By virtue of a 2-for-6 afternoon at the plate in Sunday's 11-10 win in 11 innings over the Brewers, Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman enters the final game of July with a .272 batting average, which dipped as low as .218 in late June. Zimmerman has hit .366 and with 24 RBIs in July, becoming a leading candidate for NL Player of the Month honors.

Phillies: Lee seeks bounce-back effort
Lee is looking for his first win since July 4 and is 1-6 with a 3.95 ERA on the season. In a game against Milwaukee on July 24 that the Phillies won, Lee allowed six runs on 12 hits but took a no-decision after the Phillies pulled out a comeback win.

Worth noting
• Tuesday's game is a matchup of the Nationals' top Draft pick in 2009, Strasburg, and the Montreal Expos' third pick in 2000, Lee.

• The Nationals are coming off their only off-day in a 35-game, 34-day stretch. Washington is 11-7 through the first 17 days of that stretch, which spans from July 13-Aug. 15. Comments