WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals’ offense had been hurting with injuries and player slumps dismantling their production.
The Nationals woke up Friday night against Texas starter Colby Lewis, handing the right-hander his first road loss of the season.
Ian Desmond keyed a 15-hit attack with a three-run homer, Stephen Strasburg pitched six solid innings and the Nationals beat the Rangers 9-2.
“Just because the offense wasn’t going for a while doesn’t mean that they don’t have offense,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Any given night, anything can happen, and tonight they swung the bats. They made things happen.”
Jayson Werth and Denard Span had three hits each for Washington, which had lost six of seven.
Washington shied away from saying his team lost control of the game after an early lead, pointing to some two-out hits by the Nationals and a dominant performance by Strasburg.
“I didn’t think anything unraveled,” Washington said. “I thought Desmond got a pitch out over the plate, he got a home run, and we had other opportunities, but you have to give credit to Strasburg. He shut us down.”
Strasburg (4-4) allowed two unearned runs, though his error led to them, and six hits. He struck out nine and walked one.
It was the eighth straight start in which Strasburg has pitched at least six innings and allowed three runs or less. He improved his ERA to a season-low 3.15.
“I think he’s coming into his own, starting to show a little bulldogness out there,” Desmond said of Strasburg. “I don’t know if that’s a word, but that’s what I see.”
The Rangers had runner on base in four of six innings against Strasburg, but couldn’t get any timely hits, going 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
“First inning, he really had some power behind his fastball and threw some really good breaking balls. Then we started swinging the bats better. The guy’s a good pitcher and I thought we held our own,” Washington said.
“We had some more opportunities against him and we just couldn’t get a base hit.”
Adrian Beltre had three hits for Texas, which fell to 6-3 on its 11-game road trip.
Lewis (4-4) allowed six runs, five earned, and nine hits.
He shook off suggestions that his .500 record is frustrating.
“I felt like I warmed up great. I felt like I had great stuff tonight,” Lewis said. “They got the hits when they needed to, with two outs, that’s it. Nothing more to say.”
Washington said he sees Lewis getting stronger with each start.
“I just know that each time he takes the mound, it’s a new experience for him, and he’s strengthening himself as he goes along,” Washington said.
Strasburg had thrown 88 pitches when manager Matt Williams lifted him in the sixth for a pinch-hitter with two outs and two on.
The moved paid off when Tyler Moore’s double to left scored both runners, increasing Washington’s lead to 6-2.
Moore’s double was just one of two instances during the game where the Nationals scored with two outs – and that was the most frustrating aspects of the game, Lewis said.
“That’s five runs. Right? Two outs. That’s it. I mean, that’s ballgame. I don’t want to be rude, but that’s what happened,” Lewis said.
The Nationals added two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Washington trailed 2-0 in the fourth when Werth and Adam LaRoche singled with one out.
Lewis struck out Wilson Ramos, but Desmond sent a 1-0 fastball into the seats in center field for his 10th home run.
Span used his speed to make it 4-2 after he singled in the fifth.
Running on the pitch, he kept going around second on Anthony Rendon’s grounder to third. First baseman Mitch Moreland’s throw back to the third was wild and Span scored on the error.
Texas took the lead during a bizarre second inning.
Beltre doubled leading off, but Strasburg stuck out the next two hitters and should have been out of the inning when Leonys Martin hit a slow bouncer to the mound.
The ball bounced off Strasburg’s glove, then his head, and fell to the ground. He still had a chance to get Martin but missed a stab at the ball.
Strasburg then surrendered RBI singles to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, Rougned Odor and Lewis. Lewis’ hit snapped an 0-for-23 stretch by Rangers pitchers going back to June 20, 2012.
NOTES: Texas was making its second trip back to its original home city since the franchise left Washington in 1971. Texas took 2 of 3 from the Nationals in June 2008. . Rangers RH Yu Darvish, scratched from his start on Tuesday night because of neck discomfort, remains on track to pitch Sunday after throwing a side session Friday. . Rangers RHP Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95) opposes RHP Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42) on Saturday.