|1:05 PM PT2:05 PM MT3:05 PM CT4:05 PM ET16:05 ET20:05 GMT4:05 1:05 PM MST3:05 PM EST3:35 PM VEN0:05 UAE (+1)3:05 PM CT, September 26, 2019
Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia Attendance: 22,253
Strasburg tries to end strong season on high note
Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg looks to continue his career-long success against the Philadelphia Phillies when the teams conclude their five-game series on Thursday.
The Nationals beat the Phillies 5-2 on Wednesday and will go for the rare five-game sweep.
Washington (89-69) leads the National League wild-card race by one game over the Milwaukee Brewers, and is five games clear of the New York Mets for either of the two wild-card spots.
Strasburg (17-6, 3.37 ERA) is 13-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 26 career starts against the Phillies (79-79). He's struck out 197 batters and walked 35 in 164 2/3 innings.
This year he's 1-0 but has a 5.40 ERA in two starts versus Philadelphia.
Strasburg has set a career high in wins, and over his last seven starts, he's allowed just nine earned runs in 45 innings (1.80 ERA).
In his last start, he threw seven shutout innings in a no-decision against the Marlins. He's crossed the 200-inning mark for the first time since 2014 and is one shy of his career-high of 242 strikeouts, accomplished in 2014.
"I think he's matured as a pitcher. I think he understands that throwing 96, 97 (miles per hour), you know it's great, but he understands how to pitch. He uses all his pitches effectively, which has helped him," manager Dave Martinez told reporters Wednesday. "He's a beast. ... He's had a tremendous year and he's one of the reasons why we're playing in the postseason."
Left-hander Jason Vargas (7-8, 4.40) makes his 11th start for Philadelphia. Last time out he picked up his first win since being acquired from the Mets at the trade deadline, allowing two earned runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings against the Indians on Friday. Vargas struck out eight and walked two as the Phillies rallied from an early deficit.
"It's nice to be able to stay competitive and keep us in the position to get back in the game," Vargas told MLB.com.
Vargas is 1-3 with a 1.32 ERA in seven career appearances -- four starts -- against the Nationals. He has not faced them this season.
Wednesday night, the Nationals started slowly following a night of celebrating their return to the playoffs, but Anibal Sanchez kept the game close with seven solid innings, and Wilmer Difo singled home the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
Howie Kendrick and Brian Dozier homered for the Nationals.
Martinez rested shortstop Trea Turner and third baseman Anthony Rendon, but Difo and Dozier came through. Regulars Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton and Yan Gomes were among those in the lineup.
"I still want to play these games to win," Martinez said before the game. "But we got to be smart about giving guys some days off. Today is no Anthony, no Trea. Both deserve days off, obviously. We'll see how it goes, and hopefully get Juan a couple of days off in the near future."
Brad Miller hit his third homer in two nights for the Phillies and Bryce Harper had three hits in the Phillies' doubleheader defeats.
Harper wasn't happy with the level of vitriol sent his way in right field by the Nationals Park fans late in the game.
"They were fine all game, talking about myself and things like that. I get it everywhere I go. That's nothing new," he said. "But the last two innings, it's just not right. It's not right."
Harper declined to reveal what was said but added he looks forward to playing in Philadelphia for the next 12 years.
--Field Level Media
Updated September 26, 2019