Stephen Strasburg’s manager praised his curveball. His center fielder liked his inside pitching. And his opposing starter credited his competitive drive.
Whatever the explanation, the Washington Nationals hope to see more performances like this.
Strasburg struck out 10 while pitching three-hit ball for seven innings, earning his first win in a month as the Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-0 Sunday.
"I just felt like I could command both sides of the plate today," said Strasburg, who walked only one.
Strasburg (8-9) had been 0-3 in his previous five starts, losing his last three outings.
Sunday, he never let a runner past second base, reinforcing manager Matt Williams’ assertion that he’s still the ace on a pitching staff full of worthy candidates.
"Stephen was the guy we went to the first day of the season, he’s the guy we went to after the (All-Star) break, and he’s proven why he’s a really good pitcher," Williams said.
The NL East-leading Nationals split the four-game series after dropping the first two to the last-place Phillies.
Denard Span had two hits, two steals, an RBI and scored a run for Washington while reaching base for the 29th consecutive game.
Afterward, the center fielder gave his take on what makes Strasburg this kind of dominant.
"Today he was hitting his spots inside, and seemed like he had his arm slot pitching inside and just kept those guys guessing," Span said. "Normally, he’s just throwing his fastball middle-away, middle-away. And guys were able to kind of cheat to his fastball."
Cole Hamels (6-6) allowed an unearned run over seven innings. The left-hander gave up four hits and struck out six in his second consecutive start without an earned run. He has given up one earned run or fewer in nine of his last 13 starts.
The pair allowed five combined earned runs while dueling to no-decisions in Washington’s 5-3 victory over Philadelphia on July 12.
"He and I are just trying to compete at the highest level and put up as many zeroes as we possibly can against each other," Hamels said. "I think it brings the ultimate competition out."
The Phillies were shut out for the second straight day and haven’t scored in 21 innings.
"Hard to not think it’s a waste of a solid start, but we weren’t able to get to Strasburg," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.
Cody Asche got two hits for the Phillies, but also committed an error at third base on Jose Lobaton’s chopper that led to Washington scoring in the third inning.
After dropping the ball, Asche grabbed it and his wide throw pulled first baseman Ryan Howard off the bag. Strasburg sacrificed and Span hit a looping single into right-center.
The Nationals got three runs in the eighth off reliever Ken Giles.
After Asche’s two-out double in the fifth, he appeared to be picked off on Lobaton’s throw from behind the plate to shortstop Ian Desmond. Second base umpire Tripp Gibson’s safe call stood after a challenge and review of more than three minutes.
"Early on in a game, we’re not going to go out there unless we think we’re sure," said Williams. "So we saw it one way and New York saw it another."
Phillies: Left fielder Domonic Brown has an infection in his tonsils and will see a doctor in Philadelphia on Monday. He was out of the lineup for a third straight game.
Phillies: After an off day Monday, Kyle Kendrick (5-11, 4.92) makes his seventh career appearance (five starts) against Houston on Tuesday, and his first in interleague play.
Nationals: Washington welcomes Baltimore on Monday in a makeup of their July 8 rainout. Tanner Roark (11-6, 2.74) will make his first career start against the Orioles.
HAIRSTON FOR HARPER
Scott Hairston started in left field in place of Bryce Harper. After a hit in three at-bats, Hairston is now .390 all-time (17 for 44) against Hamels with five home runs and five doubles.
Harper pinch-hit in the eighth.
BOLSTERING THE BULLPEN
Before Sunday’s game, the Phillies selected the contract of righthander Hector Neris from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and optioned righthander Phillippe Aumont.
Philadelphia’s bullpen pitched 14 2-3 innings during the series.