GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It won't come as much consolation near the end of a disappointing season, but there are still nights when you can appreciate just how special Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper can be. This was one of those nights, and it deserves to be appreciated.
The Nationals' two No. 1 draft picks were on full display during this 4-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park, each dominating the Phillies in his own way, turning what would otherwise have been a dreary September ballgame into something more than that.
Strasburg mowed down the Philadelphia lineup with ease. He allowed only one hit during his eight innings (Cody Asche's sharp single through the right side of the infield in the fifth). He walked only one batter (Freddy Galvis in the first). He struck out 14, matching the career-high he set in his major-league debut five years ago.
Harper, meanwhile, provided the Nationals' entire offensive output of the night. He homered twice and drove in another run with a third-inning single to center, maintaining his late-season surge and giving Strasburg some cushion with which to work.
It probably won't make a difference in the outcome of the season, but that shouldn't minimize what those two young stars did on this night.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: So much for Harper's late-summer power outage. Whatever concern there was about that has completely vanished over the last couple of weeks. With his first-inning blast to center field tonight, and then a 2-run shot to left in the eighth, Harper now has hit eight homers in his last 11 games. That gives him 39 on the season, which trails only Alfonso Soriano (46) for the Nationals single-season record. Harper's season, of course, has been about so much more than home runs, and all of that was on display in this game. His RBI single in the third provided a key run. And his walk in the sixth raised his on-base percentage to .467. His OPS is now up to 1.134. If he can maintain that through the season's final two weeks, it'll be MLB's highest mark since Barry Bonds (1.422) in 2004.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It felt like Strasburg had been building up to a night like this. He had been on a roll over the last couple of months, and his 13-strikeout performance against the Mets last week was a taste of things to come. Strasburg put it all together this time, with his 1-hit, 1-walk, 14-strikeout performance, as impressive an outing as he has authored since his ballyhooed MLB debut five years ago. Strasburg induced 30 swings and misses, which according to ESPN trails only Clayton Kershaw and Johan Santana over the last decade. Over his last 10 starts, Strasburg is now 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA, 79 strikeouts and nine walks.
KEY STAT: With 112 walks, Harper is now only four shy of Adam Dunn's club record, set in 2009.
UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.88) takes the mound against left-hander Adam Morgan (5-6, 4.60). No word yet if Foggy Bottom will be catching for the Phillies.
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