Postgame analysis of the Nats' 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday evening at Great American Ballpark.
How it happened: Before Saturday, the Nationals had scored an average of 6.42 runs per game on days Stephen Strasburg was pitching, the fifth-best run support for any starter in baseball. That help, combined with a 2.69 ERA, had produced a perfect 9-0 start to the season for Strasburg. The Nats had won all 11 of his starts this season and 15 straight going back to last year, the longest active streak in the majors.
That was, of course, until Saturday when Strasburg was good, but not good enough to overcome a poor showing from the Nats' offense, and eventually their bullpen. The Nats scored three, but a three-run homer by Reds left fielder Adam Duvall in the eighth inning put Cincinnati up for good
Duvall's homer came in the first at-bat after the game's second rain delay, a one hour and four minute respite. He hit it off Nats reliever Shawn Kelley, who has now allowed two homers in his last four appearances after giving up none in his first 19 games this season. He has given up runs in three of his last four outings before logging 19 straight scoreless appearances to begin the year.
Strasburg didn't take the loss, but he did exit early with an apparent injury. Strasburg was replaced by Blake Treinen with out in the sixth inning after being check on by trainers.
The Nats scored their three runs on homers. One was a two-run shot by Anthony Rendon in the second inning, his fifth of the season. The second was a solo bomb in the eighth inning by Danny Espinosa. It was Espinosa's eighth of the season and his fifth in his last nine games.
Strasburg finished with 5 1/3 innings and three runs allowed on four hits, two walks and two homers. Jay Bruce got him for a solo home run in the second inning and Joey Votto launched a two-run shot in the sixth.
What it means: The Nationals have lost just their fourth series out of 18 this season and on Sunday will hope to avoid getting swept for the third time. They remain atop the NL East, but fell to 33-23 with the defeat. If they lose Sunday, it will be the fourth time this season they've dropped three straight games. Their season-high losing streak is four. Interestingly enough, the Nats have lost seven of their last eight games against the Reds.
Strasburg gets his 1,000th strikeout: With the way he's been pitching this season, Saturday certainly seemed like the likely day Strasburg would surpass the 1,000 career strikeouts mark. He entered the game with 991, needing nine to reach the plateau, and Strasburg easily got there, getting pitcher Dan Straily to go down swinging in the bottom of the fifth on a 87 mile per hour slider. Strasburg became the first pitcher in Nats history to reach 1,000 with all of them being record in a Nationals uniform. Gio Gonzalez got to 1,000 in 2014, but the first 511 strikeouts of his career were when he was with the Oakland Athletics.
Strasburg became the 40th active pitcher to reach 1,000 career strikeouts and the 488th in MLB history. He is the second-fastest player to get there ever in terms of innings pitched. Strasburg reached the mark in 855 1/3 innings, while former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood got there in 853. Strasburg is also the second-fastest among pitchers who made their debut this century. Tim Lincecum, who did it in 136 games, was the fastest. Strasburg got there in 144 games, which is faster than Clayton Kershaw, who was third-fastest at 155.
Espinosa homers again: Espinosa has six hits in his last nine games and five of them are home runs. His solo shot in the eighth inning tied the game at 3-3. It was his eighth homer of the season, which ranks third on the Nats and puts him on pace for 24 homers this season. His eighth inning homer on Saturday just happened to come against former teammate Ross Ohlendorf, who is now a reliever for the Reds.
Caught stealing: Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart caught Ben Revere and Bryce Harper attempting to steal second in back-to-back innings. Both players drew walks against Straily, only to be gunned out with terrific throws from Barnhart. For Revere, it was the third time he's been caught in five attempts this season. For Harper, it's the fifth time in 12 attempts. That's the most times Harper has been caught stealing since his rookie year in 2012 when he was thrown out six times.
The Nationals are now 27 of 42 (66%) on the season for steal attempts. That percentage is down from the 71% they posted in 2015, but they still stealing a lot more. Last season they ranked 27th in MLB in steals with 57 of them. This season they are 15th. Put another way, the Nats are stealing 0.48 bases per game compared to 0.35 in 2015.
Up next: The Nationals and Reds finish their series with a 1:10 p.m. start on Sunday. Tanner Roark (4-4, 2.70) and Reds right-hander John Moscot (0-3, 7.13) are set to pitch. The Reds have lost all four of Moscot's starts this season.