Nothing looks to be stopping the Nationals number one ace, Stephen Strasburg, for the time being. However, the clock is ticking on his 2012 season and the Nats need to continue to win if they want to make a playoff push without #37. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Game 66: Nationals 3, Rays 2

After tempers fumed last night and both managers argued profusely in press conferences hours prior to tonight’s contest, it was back to baseball Wednesday night as the Washington Nationals snapped their four-game losing streak and beat the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 3-2 in the second of three at Nationals Park.  The Nats improve to 39-27 on the year as the Rays fall to 38-30.

To update Nationals fans that somehow missed the commotion last night, former-Nat-now-Rays-reliever Joel Peralta was found with pine tar in his glove Tuesday that caused him to be ejected from the game without even throwing a pitch in the 8th inning.  To make a long story short, Rays manager Joe Maddon was furious that Davey Johnson had ratted out the pitcher, and today before the game even declared that baseball players should “think twice” before deciding to join the Nationals club in the future.

Now, back to tonight’s game.  Stephen Strasburg proved once again to be lights-out, this time against a tough Rays’ offense.  He went seven strong innings while allowing only 5 hits, 2 earned runs, and 2 walks.  Unsurprisingly, Stras also struck out 10 batters to take the win and improve his season record to 9-1.  The Rays batters obviously struggled throughout the night against the superstar right-hander, but a solo shot by catcher Jose Molina in the 2nd inning and an RBI single by Hideki Matsui in the 3rd would keep the Rays within striking distance.  Strasburg totaled a somewhat worrisome 111 pitches, but strong outings by 1-2 punch Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively, allowed Stephen to add a tally to his personal win column.

One storyline to which fans probably did not pay much attention was a young pitcher the Rays called up to face the Nationals in place of the injured Jeremy Hellickson, him being Mr. Chris Archer.  Archer pitched to a measly 4-8 record and 4.81 ERA at AAA Durham this season, but despite this fact did very well against a tough first-place ballclub this evening.  His final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, and 7 K.  While Archer retired 15 of the last 16 Nationals hitters he faced, his struggles would understandably come in his first Major League inning where he allowed all three Nats runs to score.  Bryce Harper drove in Steve Lombardozzi to open the game, and a Ryan Zimmerman RBI and eventual RBI single by Ian Desmond later in the inning would score the other two runs.  After the 1st, however, one could argue that Archer pitched even better than Strasburg.  The Rays management certainly saw something special in this young right-hander, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was officially added to the rotation later this week.

Champ of the Game: Certainly Mr. Strasburg for the home team, who is hitting his stride at one of the most critical points of the season.  At 84 innings pitched, he is a little over halfway to his 160-inning 2012 campaign.

For the Rays, pitcher Chris Archer looked extremely strong in this one.  After just one tough inning to start the ballgame, this man looked like an experienced veteran (despite his young looks).

Chump of the Game: It’s gotta be Danny Espinosa, who continues to struggle against right-handed pitching.  He went 0-3 with 2 Ks in this one.  Read more on the Espinosa situation in District on Deck’s most recent Roundtable.

Tough to pick a name for the Rays, but Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist both failed to produce a hit against Nats pitching.

Unsung Hero:  One National that hasn’t been receiving much attention recently is reliever Sean Burnett, who now has 12 holds (three off NL lead) and poses a stellar 1.13 ERA and .92 WHIP.  Even with all the recent commotion surrounding the likes of Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge, Burnett has arguably been the most consistent reliever this year.

Next Game: Thursday, 7:05 PM, at Nationals Park. Matt Moore (4-5, 4.16 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (8-3, 2.52 ERA).

Tags: Danny Espinosa Nationals Rays Sean Burnett Stephen Strasburg Tampa Bay Rays Washington Nationals

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