Game in a nutshell: First of all, rest assured there were no pine tar incidents in this one. Just a clean, well-played ballgame featuring a couple of dominant pitching performances. Stephen Strasburg's dominance (seven innings of two-run, 10-strikeout ball) was expected. Chris Archer's dominance (he retired the last 11 batters he faced in his big-league debut) was not. In the end, the three runs the Nats scored in the first inning held up the entire way. Strasburg made it through seven innings on 111 pitches, then turned things over to Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard to close it out and snap the Nationals' four-game losing streak. Oh, and Joel Peralta did manage to retire two batters out of the Tampa Bay bullpen without getting ejected.
Hitting highlight: There weren't many to choose from, since the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the first and then did nothing after that. But that early rally did feature a couple of impressive at-bats. It began with Steve Lombardozzi's leadoff double, with the rookie showing off some nice hustle. It continued with Bryce Harper's RBI single to center, with the rookie hustling to advance to second on the throw home. And it concluded with Ian Desmond's two-out RBI single to left. Desmond now has 35 RBI for the season, second only to Adam LaRoche on the roster.
Pitching highlight: Strasburg would probably say he didn't have his very best stuff tonight. Amazing what the guy can still do without it. Though he served up a homer to Jose Molina in the second and then gave up another run in the third on back-to-back two-out hits, Strasburg wound up notching the sixth double-digit strikeout start of his young career. And most impressively, he dialed things up a notch to finish off his night. The right-hander's 111th pitch of the game was a 98 mph fastball blown past Desmond Jennings for his 10th strikeout. People have often tried to compare Strasburg to Justin Verlander. Well, that final inning was a good example. Verlander is known for ratcheting up his fastball a few extra miles per hour in his final inning, and Strasburg showed he could do that, too.
Key stat: Archer walked 5.3 batters per nine innings this season at Class AAA Durham. The Nats managed to draw only one free pass off the rookie over six innings.
Up next: This emotionally charged series concludes Thursday night when a pair of really talented, young left-handers squares off. It'll be Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals, Matt Moore for the Rays at 7:05 p.m.