|Washington (19-12) «||0||0||0||0||0||3||0||0||1||4||9||2|
PITTSBURGH -- Maybe Davey Johnson should hold all his team meetings on days Stephen Strasburg is pitching.
The Washington Nationals' manager called a brief meeting to give his mildly slumping club a confidence boost and Strasburg responded with another brilliant performance to lift the Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the Pirates on Thursday.
"That's a good night to have a team meeting, isn't it?" Johnson said with a laugh.
Strasburg (3-0) struck out a season-high 13 as Washington snapped a three-game losing streak.
"When the stuff's working like tonight, you've got to go out there and just throw it, and it doesn't really matter what you throw," Strasburg said.
The performance was reminiscent of Strasburg's electric major league debut against the Pirates nearly two years ago. The former No. 1 pick struck out 14 over seven innings on June 8, 2010, to announce to the baseball world the hype was real.
|More on Nationals-Pirates|
|More MLB Coverage|
An elbow injury cut short his rookie season and required reconstructive surgery that sidelined Strasburg for a year, and the Nationals have been careful about bringing their ace along slowly.
It might be time to take off the shackles.
"He thinks he's not throwing hard but the ball's coming out of his hand real quick, and he's also got a good changeup and a good curveball," Johnson said. "I mean, he's nasty."
Strasburg (3-0) lowered his ERA to 1.64 by overpowering one of baseball's weaker lineups. He struck out seven straight batters at one point and for a moment it appeared he was on his way to a record-breaking night.
It didn't happen after Strasburg cooled in the later innings, but he made a believer of Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle.
"That's a good arm with a kid with a head to work with it," Hurdle said. "The progress he's made in a very short period of time at this level is something."
The Nationals have been one of baseball's biggest surprises over the first month of the season and began the day in a virtual tie for first with Atlanta atop the NL East. Still, Johnson was so concerned after watching his squad drop three straight -- including two to Pittsburgh -- he called a meeting a couple of hours before the game.
Johnson offered a gentle reminder to his young club that there's no reason to panic, and stressed he wasn't going to let a little dip lead to massive changes.
The way Strasburg is pitching, there's no need.
Correia lacks Strasburg's power and instead kept the Pirates in it with his precision. He cruised through the first five innings but wobbled just long enough in the sixth to give up the lead.
Bernadina led off the sixth with his first home run of the season to put Washington on the board. Ryan Zimmerman walked and LaRoche -- a former Pirate who was booed heavily at every turn throughout the series -- drilled his sixth homer of the season into the Nationals' bullpen behind the wall in center to put Washington ahead 3-2.
"I needed to be efficient," said Correia, who gave up three runs on six hits in seven innings, striking out one and walking two. "I did that. If I could take back a pitch or two, it could have been a pretty good game. When you're facing one of the better pitchers in the league you've got little room for error and that cost us the game."
Given the lead for the first time all night, Strasburg nearly gave it up. He threw 12 balls during a 14-pitch span to load the bases.
Jones stepped in and knew what was coming and swung at the first pitch he saw, fouling it off. The strike appeared to settle Strasburg's nerves, and he fanned Jones with a 95 mph heater to get out of the jam.
"He gave me a couple pitches to hit," Jones said. "I just swung right through them."
Rick Ankiel added some insurance in the ninth with a solo homer and Rodriguez, who blew a save on Tuesday night in a 5-4 loss, bounced back by handling the Pirates in the bottom of the inning.
"You never want to get swept," LaRoche said. "So any time you're down two games in a series, it's always nice to pick up that last one. [Strasburg] pitched his butt off, got out of a couple jams for us and we were able to score some runs."
Washington rookie outfielder Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 and committed his first major league error in the fourth when he tried to gun down Jose Tabata at the plate. The ball bounced off catcher Jesus Flores, allowing McCutchen to move to second.
|Stephen Strasburg lowers his ERA to 1.64 with a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Bucs. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
Nike Bryce Harper Nationals 2012 MLB Hair-itage T-Shirt - Red Shop Now!
|Ian Desmond, SS||5||0||0||0||0||0||3||.254|
|Roger Bernadina, LF||4||1||1||1||0||0||1||.189|
|Ryan Zimmerman, 3B||3||1||1||0||1||1||0||.229|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||3||1||2||2||1||0||1||.327|
|Bryce Harper, RF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.263|
|Danny Espinosa, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.191|
|Rick Ankiel, CF||4||1||1||1||0||1||0||.275|
|Jesus Flores, C||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||.206|
|Stephen Strasburg, P||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.308|
|a- Stephen Lombardozzi, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.295|
|Ryan Mattheus, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Tyler Clippard, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Chad Tracy, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.256|
|Henry Rodriguez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-grounded out for Strasburg in the 7th|
|b-singled for Clippard in the 9th|
|2B - Adam LaRoche (7, Watson), Stephen Strasburg (3, Correia)|
|HR - Roger Bernadina (1, Correia), Adam LaRoche (6, Correia), Rick Ankiel (2, Resop)|
|RBI - Roger Bernadina (4), Adam LaRoche 2 (21), Rick Ankiel (7)|
|CS - Danny Espinosa (3, 2nd base by Correia/McKenry)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - Desmond-Espinosa-LaRoche|
|E - Bryce Harper (1, Throwing), Adam LaRoche (3, Missed catch of throw)|
|Stephen Strasburg (W,3-0)||6||5||2||1||3||13||0||1.64|
|Ryan Mattheus (H,5)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2.40|
|Tyler Clippard (H,7)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||3.86|
|Henry Rodriguez (S,7)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||2.63|
|Pitches-Strikes - Stephen Strasburg 103-62, Ryan Mattheus 15-8, Tyler Clippard 12-8, Henry Rodriguez 16-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Stephen Strasburg 3-0, Tyler Clippard 1-1, Henry Rodriguez 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Stephen Strasburg 24, Ryan Mattheus 3, Tyler Clippard 3, Henry Rodriguez 4|
|Jose Tabata, RF||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.240|
|Alex Presley, LF||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.241|
|Andrew McCutchen, CF||3||1||1||1||1||1||0||.330|
|Pedro Alvarez, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||2||1||.216|
|Neil Walker, 2B||3||0||1||1||1||2||0||.288|
|Garrett Jones, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||3||4||.264|
|Clint Barmes, SS||3||0||0||0||0||2||0||.152|
|a- Casey McGehee, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.243|
|Michael McKenry, C||3||0||1||0||0||1||0||.206|
|Kevin Correia, P||2||0||0||0||0||2||1||.200|
|b- Nate McLouth, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.205|
|Tony Watson, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Chris Resop, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-grounded out for Barmes in the 9th|
|b-flied out for Correia in the 7th|
|2B - Michael McKenry (2, Strasburg)|
|SH - Alex Presley (3)|
|RBI - Andrew McCutchen (11), Neil Walker (11)|
|2-OUT RBI - Neil Walker (8)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Walker-Barmes-G. Jones|
|Kevin Correia (L,1-3)||7||6||3||3||2||1||2||3.47|
|HBP - Strasburg (by Kevin Correia)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Kevin Correia 81-55, Tony Watson 10-8, Chris Resop 12-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kevin Correia 11-7, Tony Watson 1-0, Chris Resop 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Kevin Correia 28, Tony Watson 4, Chris Resop 5|
|Attendance - 15381|
|Game Time - 2:38|
|Temperature - 60|
|Umpires - Home - Phil Cuzzi, First Base - Greg Gibson, Second Base - Victor Carapazza, Third Base - Gerry Davis|