(Reuters) - Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 batters in six innings as the Washington Nationals snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
Strasburg, who tied a franchise record by striking out seven straight hitters, improved his record to 3-0 for the season after the Nationals had trailed 0-2 through four innings.
The 23-year-old, who dazzled fans in 2010 until an elbow injury ended his rookie campaign, gave up just the two runs, one earned, on five hits and walked three, all of them coming in the sixth when he loaded the bases.
Washington took control in the sixth when Roger Bernadina hit a solo homer over the center-field wall and Adam LaRoche followed up with a two-run shot in front of a crowd of 15,381 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Rick Ankiel added a solo homer in the ninth to close out the scoring as the Nationals stayed at the top of the National League’s East standings with a 19-12 record.
“You get used to seeing it,” LaRoche told reporters of Strasburg’s win. “You’ve got a guy that goes out there and throws the way he does every single fifth day, you kind of start to expect it.”
Strasburg, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft, burst onto the scene as a hard-throwing rookie a year later when he struck out 14 batters on his major league debut.
He instantly became a main attraction for a struggling Nationals franchise but his season ended in August 2010 when he was injured and subsequently underwent ‘Tommy John’ surgery.
“When the stuff’s working like tonight, you’ve got to go out there and just throw it, and it doesn’t really matter what you throw,” Strasburg said after ensuring the Nationals avoided a three-game sweep by the Pirates.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Peter Rutherford