Game in a nutshell: The Stephen Strasburg-Tim Lincecum pitching showdown was overshadowed first by news of Melky Cabrera's 50-game suspension after testing positive for testosterone, then by Lincecum's ineffective start. The Nationals knocked the struggling, two-time Cy Young Award winner out after only four innings, getting his pitch count all the way up to 96. Strasburg, meanwhile, battled his way through a laborious second inning and wound up tossing six strong frames to earn his 14th win of the season. Throw in some timely hits from Jayson Werth (2-for-4, three RBI), Danny Espinosa (2-run homer) and Steve Lombardozzi (4-for-5) and the Nationals emerged with a series victory, an 8-2 road trip and will return home still holding baseball's best record at 73-45.
Hitting highlight: How important has Werth been to the Nationals' overall fortunes since returning from the disabled list? Very. With a pair of run-scoring hits today that drove in three total runs, the veteran outfielder is now hitting .402 (17-for-42) with a .490 on-base percentage and .548 slugging percentage in 13 total games since his return. Perhaps most impressively, Werth is showing more aggressiveness at the plate, looking to drive in runs more than taking walks, especially with men in scoring position (a bit of a problem last season). Ultimately, Werth's biggest impact has been on the Nationals' won-loss record. He's now started 11 games since coming off the DL, and the Nats have gone 10-1 in those games.
Pitching highlight: Strasburg labored through a tough second inning, issuing a pair of walks to Buster Posey and Hunter Pence (both wound up coming around to score on Brandon Belt's single) but that was his only real hiccup of the afternoon. The right-hander retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced, cruising through the sixth inning having allowed only those two early runs on four hits. But his pitch count was once again elevated at 100, so Davey Johnson decided not to take any chances and turn to his bullpen for the seventh. So, for those keeping track, Strasburg is now 14-5 with a 2.91 ERA in 21 starts, having struck out a league-leading 173 batters in 139 13 innings.
Key stat: Over the last six games of this trip, Lombardozzi went 13-for-25, raising his batting average from .261 to .280.
Up next: After 10 games in three cities in two time zones, the Nationals get a well-deserved day off Thursday. They'll then return to South Capitol Street Friday at 7:05 p.m. to face the Mets. Ross Detwiler is scheduled to face Johan Santana, and shortstop Ian Desmond is likely to return from the DL.