WASHINGTON (AP) — Once again, the Nationals struggled for runs when Stephen Strasburg was on the mound.
With the right-hander dominating against the slumping Rockies, two was enough.
Strasburg struck out nine over seven innings, Ian Desmond homered in his third straight game to help give the righty his first win in June and Washington beat Colorado 2-1 on Friday night.
“He threw great,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Strasburg’s latest outing. “We’ve been scoring practically nothing (for him). … It was a big win for him and for us.”
Making his 14th start of the season, Strasburg (4-6) allowed one run on five hits for his first victory since May 31. After DJ LeMahieu’s RBI single in the third inning, Strasburg kept the Rockies scoreless.
Colorado lost its fifth straight and fell under .500 for the first time since opening day at 37-38.
Trailing 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Anthony Rendon singled off Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood and came around to score the tying run on Ryan Zimmerman’s double into the right field corner.
Facing reliever Manny Corpas (0-2) leading off the seventh, Desmond swatted a 2-0 pitch over the center field wall for his 12th homer. The All-Star shortstop’s homers have come during each game in the three-win streak, Washington’s longest since claiming five straight from May 4-10.
“We’ve been playing better baseball, that’s the most important thing,” third baseman Zimmerman said of the back-to-back-to-back victories. “The past four or five games we’ve really started to play like we should have been playing.”
Reliever Drew Storen worked the eighth and Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his 19th save as the Nationals moved one game above .500 at 37-36 while the Rockies fell one game under at 37-38.
Colorado picked up a timely two-out hit in the third as LeMahieu singled to left, scoring Josh Rutledge from second. That was the Rockies only hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They have scored two runs through the opening two games of the four-game series.
“We’ve played good baseball, we just haven’t come up with big hits,” Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer said.
Rutledge doubled with two-outs in the seventh, but Zimmerman recorded the final out with a running, over the shoulder catch of pinch-hitter Tyler Colvin’s popup in foul territory along the left field line. After Dexter Fowler walked with one out in the eighth and reached second base on Storen’s throwing error, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer struck out.
“There’s no secret formula,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “You go up there, take good at-bats, take some timely hits. That’s all you can do.”
In two starts since returning from the disabled list on June 16 following a lower lat strain, Strasburg has surrendered one earned run and seven hits over 12 innings. That type of effort has not always led to wins thanks to Washington’s batting woes. In his six losses, the Nationals have scored eight total runs.
Regardless of the previous results, Strasburg said his focus has remained on that day’s task.
“The big thing is you have to go out there with the same mentality every time out regardless of what’s happened in the past,” Strasburg said. “That’s pitching to contact, keeping your team in the ballgame.”
Corpas pitched 1 2-3 innings, allowing only Desmond’s homer.
“He hit the fastball where it was pitched, out over the plate, instead of trying to pull it,” Johnson said of Desmond’s drive. “He’s been good at that. He’s something special.”
Chatwood gave up one run and four hits over six innings with four strikeouts and two walks. He entered the game having allowed one earned run in three road starts. The Nationals failed to put a runner into scoring position through five innings. Rendon had two of the Nationals’ five hits.
Cuddyer’s opposite field single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 19 games, the longest active streak in the majors. Cuddyer promptly stole second base and moved to third with one out, but Strasburg neatly ended the threat with a strikeout and grounder.
NOTES: Johnson said he expects OF Bryce Harper to begin a rehab assignment at single-A Potomac on Tuesday. Sidelined since May 26 with left knee bursitis, Harper ran in the outfield on Friday and was expected to take swings in the indoor batting cage. … Cuddyer has reached base safely in 38 straight games, tying the Rockies record set by Matt Holliday in 2007. …Fowler (right ring finger) returned to the Rockies’ lineup in the leadoff spot after missing the previous three games. … The Rockies called up OF Corey Dickerson from Triple-A Colorado Springs and designated RHP Logan Kensing for assignment. …Colorado RHP Jhoulys Chacin (5-3, 4.26) opposes Dan Haren (4-8, 5.72) for Saturday’s 12:05 p.m. matchup.