Both sides went down without a peep in the third. The Bucs went quietly in the fourth; The Cisco Kid's out streak ended at 11 with a walk to Jayson Werth with two gone. The only red flag is that he's up to 70 pitches. Clint Barmes ended Strasburg's string at 10 with a two out, two base boot in the fifth from SS Anthony Rendon, but Liriano K'ed looking. The Cisco Kid put it on cruise control and worked a quick five-pitch frame.
Strasburg tucked the Bucs away neatly in the sixth. With two down, Rendon collected the first Nat knock, a bouncer to the 3B hole that Pedro knocked down but couldn't come up with cleanly, followed by a five pitch walk to Ryan Zimmerman, and suddenly that pitch count is nosing up (it was at 91 by the end of the frame), not to mention the hot Werth is up with a chance to cause some mischief. But the only damage was done by Frankie, who K'ed Werth looking twice; the ump missed the first call.
The Bucs again went down in order in the seventh; the good news is that SS is up to 104 pitches, though he's still hitting 97 on the heater. It was 1-2-3 for Franciso; he's a little better off at 98 tosses. Strasburg came out for the eighth and struck out the side; Liriano hit for himself; we wonder if that's because the Melancon-Grilli back end bridge isn't available.
Steve Lombardozzi opened with a single to center. Kurt Suzuki pinch hit for Strasburg, and bunted the runner up 90'. Scott Hairston made The Cisco Kid work, but went down looking at the eighth pitch. Clint Hurdle figured that had taken out enough from the tank, and called in Justin Wilson to face Rendon, a righty. No diff to Wilson; he fed fed him three heaters at 97, 98, 99 and got a foul pop to first to end the frame. Liriano went 7-2/3 shutout frames, giving up two hits, walking three and whiffing eight on 110 pitches, a great outing.
Drew Storen came on for the ninth. Starling Marte spoiled a handful of pitches and broke his 0-for-20 streak with a liner into center. After a couple of pickoff tries. Neil Walker ripped the next pitch to the wall into left center for a double, plating Marte. Cutch got good wood on the ball, but lined out to Zimmerman at third; must be that RISP factor. Pedro was walked intentionally to get to Gaby, who entered as a defensive sub in seventh. He K'ed, swinging through a 3-2 slider.
Davey Johnson tapped the left arm for Fernando Abad to face Snider, and Clint Hurdle swapped him out for JT. Tabata got plunked on the arm to jam the sacks for The Fort. On an 0-2 count, Abad gave him a heater in and on the knees; McKenry turned on it and banged it through the shortstop hole past a diving Zimmerman to bring home a pair and make it 4-0. It worked out well that Johnson has an old school mentality; Tyler Clippard stayed in the bullpen because the Nats were behind a run instead of up one.
Mark the Shark also stayed in the tank as Wilson remained on the bump for the bottom of the ninth. Zimmerman opened by poking a heater on the outside half into right for a knock. Wilson left a cutter down Broadway to the wrong man, and Werth banged it over the wall in right center to make it 4-2. The blast was Werth's fifth long ball in four games and third against the Bucs. That brought Melacon out, and in the situation he's used to, with the bases empty - MM hasn't come in with a runner on this season, always opening the inning.
After striking out Adam LaRoche, Wilson Ramos singled to right off Walker's glove. He made up; Denard Span rolled over on a pitch away and bounced into a game-ending 4-3 DP (Walker missed the tag on Ramos, but the catcher was rung up for being out of the baseline). The Shark notched his first victim, and may have driven the Nats into seller mode as the deadline approaches the 11th hour.
Sweet pitching by Strasburg and Liriano; 20 whiffs and just one run on four hits between the two, a classic pitching duel. Strasburg had his hook going and Francisco's change up was a thing of beauty; both, needless to say, had their Grade A heaters tonight.
Well, the Bucs have the series in the bag and send AJ Burnett out against Gio Gonzalez tomorrow to try to sweep the set. It's looking like August and September may not be a vale of tears this season.
- How good was The Cisco Kid? 20 of his 22 first pitches were strikes tonight.
- Stephen Strasburg has struck out at least 12 batters four times in his career. Three of those outings have been against the Pirates.
- Pedro Alvarez's 26 homers ties him for the NL lead with Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez.
- Dejan Kovacevich of the Tribune Review reported that Clint Hurdle isn't going to juggle the rotation during the upcoming Miami series in an effort to get all five regular guys to throw against the Cards next week (Tuesday is a doubleheader). Hurdle would rather keep everyone on schedule as the next off day isn't until August 5th. Now all he has to decide is whether to call up someone or use Jeanmar Gomez.
- No news on Jason Grilli; the Pirates are still evaluating.
- Chase d'Arnaud has been taken off the DL and returned to Indy; he had missed several weeks with a wrist injury.