Strasburg’s surge continues as Nationals beat Marlins 13-3

WASHINGTON (AP) These days, Stephen Strasburg is pitching as well as he feels. Or at least that’s how his manager sees it.

Strasburg struck out 10 in an encore to one of the best starts of his career, and the Washington Nationals scored seven sixth-inning runs in a 13-3 victory over the Miami Marlins on Sunday afternoon.

”I don’t think it’s mentality, I think it’s health,” manager Matt Williams said of Strasburg, who has a 1.98 ERA over his last 11 starts after enduring two stints on the disabled list this season.

”He feels good. And when he feels good, you can see him running the ball in there at 98 mph today. That’s pretty impressive.”

Yunel Escobar had four hits and four RBIs as the Nationals moved within 6 1-2 games of the NL East-leading New York Mets, who play the Yankees later Sunday.

Bryce Harper had three hits and scored three times, and Tyler Moore homered for a second straight game to help Washington to its third straight victory and seventh in eight games.

But only a fraction of that offense was needed for Strasburg, who tied a career high with 14 strikeouts his last time out.

He’s now fanned 37 batters over his last three outings, a Nationals record since the franchise moved to Washington. On Sunday, he allowed two runs – one earned – on six hits and a walk in his eighth outing since his coming off the DL from an oblique strain.

”I mean yeah, it’s a factor,” Strasburg said of his health. ”But even before I pulled my oblique, my mechanics, I was making improvements with it and getting in the right direction.”

Rookie left-hander Justin Nicolino (3-4) allowed seven runs in 5 2-3 innings for Miami, which lost the final three games of the four-game set.

Marcell Ozuna homered, doubled and drove in two runs for the Marlins, who end the season series 9-10 against the Nationals.

The loss was Miami’s worst since a 12-1 defeat to the Mets on Aug. 3, and the first time they’ve allowed more than 12 runs this season.

Escobar was 4 for 4 and had a three-run double in the sixth. He has hit safely in 19 of his last 21 games, and is batting .422 with 13 RBIs and 16 runs over that stretch as his team tries to make a miracle comeback in the division.

”Obviously, it’s there,” Escobar said through an interpreter about the team’s big deficit. ”But the less we think about it as a team, the better we have a chance of catching up to them.”

Nicolino allowed seven hits – including Moore’s blast – while walking two and striking out three in his 10th career start.

He appeared to settle after a three-run first, and trailed only 3-2 before things unraveled in the sixth.

With the bases loaded, Escobar scored on Wilson Ramos’ sac fly. Moore ripped Nicolino’s next pitch, an 86-mph cutter, into the Marlins bullpen. Later in the inning, Escobar’s bases-loaded double off Scott McGough made it 10-2.

ICHIRO’S STRIKEOUT WOES

Ichiro Suzuki struck out three times for the first time since July 9, 2014, with all three of those coming against Strasburg. He also struck out twice on Saturday, marking the first time he’s struck out multiple times in consecutive games since June 9-10 of 2010.

TRAINERS ROOM

Marlins: INF Martin Prado (left wrist) did not play for a third straight day.

Nationals: 2B Anthony Rendon was out of the lineup due to illness, Williams said. … 1B Ryan Zimmerman (left oblique) started on the bench for a 10th straight game.

UP NEXT

Marlins: RHP Tom Koehler (10-13, 3.90) takes the hill Tuesday against Philadelphia to begin Miami’s final homestand of the season.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.83) looks to improve upon his 3.04 ERA at Nationals Park this season against Baltimore RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (11-9, 4.31).