Game in a nutshell: Who says the Nationals can't handle the pressure of a pennant-race series against their lone remaining competitors in the NL East. After pulling off last night's dramatic, 13-inning win over the Braves, they did it in more convincing fashion this time. There was, of course, a 51-minute rain delay in the top of the third, but that didn't faze anyone, least of all Stephen Strasburg. Allowed to retake the mound, the right-hander wound up tossing six innings and striking out 10. His batterymate, Jesus Flores, supplied a three-run homer, with Ian Desmond launching a solo shot of his own. Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard then finished it off out of the bullpen, leaving a crowd of 33,888 rocking and celebrating the home team's seven-game lead over Atlanta heading into tomorrow's series finale.
Hitting highlight: It's been a tough season for Flores, who was put into a tough spot after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and has struggled both at and behind the plate. This, though, might have been his finest all-around performance of the year, and it came at a most opportune time. Flores clubbed a three-run homer into the flower bed beyond the left-field fence in the fifth (his fourth home run of the season, three of them coming against the Braves). Then he closed out the top of the sixth with a laser to nail Jason Heyward trying to take second on a ball in the dirt. In a season that has been frustrating on many levels for Flores, this had to feel especially gratifying.
Pitching highlight: Strasburg negatively affected by a rain delay? Pfft. So what if he had to keep himself warm during the 51-minute gap in action during the top of the third? He actually came back better and stronger. In fact, Strasburg might have displayed his best command of all three of his pitches the entire season. He painted corners with a 97 mph fastball. He dropped 83 mph curveballs off the table. And his 91 mph changeup was unhittable. Put it all together and you get six innings of one-run, 10-strikeout ball on 94 pitches (plus whatever he threw down in the batting tunnel during the delay). Remember Strasburg's inconsistent July, when he went 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA? Well, he's now 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in August. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Key stat: Over the last three days, the Nationals have sat through 253 minutes of rain delays.
Up next: The Nationals will go for the sweep (and possibly a knockout punch of the Braves) Wednesday night. Ross Detwiler gets the ball against right-hander Kris Medlen.