GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the first time in 25 days, fresh off a DL stint that was as much about getting himself right mechanically as it was getting himself right physically, and quickly reminded everyone just how good he can be. Strasburg, after waiting out a 2-hour, 12-minute rain delay, tossed five scoreless innings, striking out six and generally looking like the guy who was among baseball's better starting pitchers over the previous five seasons.
Strasburg's teammates gave up some early run support, with Denard Span and Anthony Rendon teaming up for a first-inning run, Span driving in Michael Taylor with a third-inning RBI single and then Taylor driving in Danny Espinosa with a fourth-inning RBI base hit.
The rest was up to the Nationals' bullpen. Tanner Roark returned from the paternity leave list to a relief role and retired all six batters he faced. Matt Thornton gave up a solo homer to Cameron Maybin in the top of the eighth, but David Carpenter pitched out of a jam to get the ball to Drew Storen, who notched his 21st save in 22 tries after loading the bases with two outs in the ninth.
Thus the Nationals won their fourth straight. Combined with the Mets' 6-game losing streak, the Nats suddenly have opened up a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL East.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: You knew it was just a matter of time before Rendon found his groove. This might well have been the night it happened. The young second baseman went 4-for-4, with a pair of singles to left field and a pair of singles to right field. In the process, he raised his batting average from .230 to .277. We're still waiting for Rendon's power stroke to come around, but that, too, will happen in time. For now, rest assured that one of the most talented young hitters in baseball is starting to come around.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Could Strasburg have been better? Yeah, but really the only gripe would be his lack of efficiency. And that's a minor nitpick on an otherwise impressive night for the right-hander. He did exactly what the Nationals wanted him to do: Command his fastball down in the zone early in the count, then elevate it with two strikes. All six of his strikeouts came on high fastballs, most registering 97 mph. Strasburg's mechanics looked good. His demeanor was good. Everything about him was good in this game, an awfully encouraging development for the Nats.
KEY STAT: Nationals starting pitchers over the last four games have the following total line: 28.1 IP, 14H, 1 R, 4 BB, 31 K, 1 HBP.
UP NEXT: Jordan Zimmermann (5-5, 3.75) takes the mound Wednesday night, looking to keep the Nats' string of great starting pitching going. He'll face a tough task in Atlanta's Shelby Miller (5-3, 1.99).
MORE NATIONALS: Watch Harper react to news of breaking NL All-Star voting record