GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The sight of Stephen Strasburg taking the mound this season has produced plenty of emotions, unfortunately far too many of them negative after four months of struggles, injuries and some downright bizarre outings. But by the end of this night, after Strasburg had thoroughly dominated the Rockies in his return from the disabled list, there is as much reason to be optimistic about the right-hander as there has been in a very long time.
Strasburg was brilliant in his first start since suffering an oblique strain on July 4. He tossed seven innings of 1-run ball, scattering three hits while striking out 12 and failing to walk anybody. He even notched three hits at the plate for the first time in his career. And when he departed after the seventh, a crowd of 37,115 rose to give him his loudest ovation of a trying season.
Strasburg was the recipient of plenty of of run support, with the Nationals scoring in the second, third, fifth and seventh innings, RBI coming from up and down the lineup. And thanks to the Mets actually losing a ballgame for the first time in nine days, the Nats ended the night down only 1 1/2 games in the NL East.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: As they did Friday night, the Nationals got big hits from everybody in the heart of their lineup. And the biggest one came from Wilson Ramos. With two on and one out in the bottom of the second, Ramos stayed back on a breaking ball and roped it to deep right-center. By the time the Rockies retrieved it, both Clint Robinson and Ian Desmond had come around to score and Ramos had coasted into second base with a big double. Slowly but surely, the Nats catcher is coming of a long slump at the plate, and he's doing it with hits exactly like that: to center and right fields.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: If there were any fears about Strasburg in his first start in five weeks, he very quickly put those to rest. Despite allowing a leadoff double to Charlie Blackmon, he buckled right down and got out of the first inning with some electric pitches. And by night's end, he had authored one of the best starts of his career: 7 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball, with 12 strikeout and zero walks. It's the sixth time Strasburg has recorded double-digit strikeouts without issuing a walk in his career. And he even went 3-for-3 at the plate after going 0-for-16 prior to this game. It was everything the Nats could have wanted in Strasburg's return, and it will only leave the right-hander with sky-high confidence moving forward.
KEY STAT: Ryan Zimmerman has driven in a run in each of his last six games. Zimmerman already holds the club record with an RBI in nine straight games in 2012.
UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Max Scherzer (11-8, 2.31) seeks his first win at Nationals Park since his June 20 no-hitter. Lefty Yohan Flande (2-1, 3.54) starts for the Rockies.