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Strasburg, Nats not so hot against Padres

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Strasburg, Nats not so hot against Padres

The lore of Stephen Strasburg includes a 14-strikeout debut. It includes a triple-digit fastball and a knee-buckling curveball. And it includes, to date, a wildly successful recovery from Tommy John surgery.

It may now also include the case of the unfortunately placed ointment.

As if the top of the first inning of today's 6-1 loss to the Padres -- featuring a routine fly ball falling between three Nationals fielders, a sudden deluge requiring an eight-minute rain delay and three San Diego runs -- wasn't strange enough for Strasburg, manager Davey Johnson suggested afterward his young ace was also bothered by the misapplication of some heating balm.

"I can't really tell you what the problem was, but some hot stuff got misplaced," Johnson said in cryptic fashion. "It was on his shoulder, and evidently ... I don't know how it got to where it got. But it was uncomfortable, to say the least."

Strasburg would not discuss the subject when asked about it and seemed perturbed his manager volunteered the information at all.

"You know, I'm going to keep that in the clubhouse," the right-hander said.

Whatever truly happened, it was only one of multiple calamities that befell Strasburg during what proved to be one of the least-effective of his 25 career starts. In lasting only four innings while allowing four runs, the 23-year-old racked up 81 pitches and put his team in a hole it couldn't escape.

"I think I can learn a lot from this outing," he said. "I've got to just find the positives and remember that there's always going to be days like this where nothing's really going your way."

It began only six pitches into the afternoon, when Will Venable lofted what looked like a routine flyball to shallow left-center field. Roger Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Ian Desmond all pursued the pop-up, then all pulled up and watched the ball fall harmlessly to the ground for a gift double.

"It has nothing to do with communication," Bernadina said. "That ball, I should have caught it."

Strasburg tried to maintain his composure in the wake of the defensive gaffe, but it didn't take long before he had to deal with another distraction: A sudden cloudburst that sent the crowd of 23,902 scurrying for cover.

The umpires, led by crew chief Brian Gorman, let play continue under the poor conditions, and Strasburg clearly didn't look comfortable with it. He struggled to get a good grip on the ball, fidgeted with both the mound and the rosin bag and wound up walking two batters and allowing another single, loading the bases with two outs.

Then, with the count 3-2 to Padres catcher Jeff Baker and the rain coming down in buckets, Gorman finally pulled both teams off the field and called for the tarp.

"I mean, the ball was absolutely drenched," Strasburg said. "I probably could've hurt somebody."

Before the grounds crew could cover up the infield, though, the rain stopped. So after only an eight-minute delay to spread some drying agent on the mound, the plate and around the bases, Strasburg retook the mound, still facing Baker with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count.

"It's kind of like: OK, now I don't have any margin for error," Strasburg said.

The right-hander wound up grooving a fastball over the plate, then watched as Baker sent it scurrying back up the middle and past a diving Desmond for a two-run single that put San Diego up 3-0.

"But, I mean, you can pitch through those things," Johnson said. "Like I say, the fly ball dropping just exacerbates the situation. And then the rain delay doesn't make things easier."

Everything that transpired after that disastrous first inning almost seemed insignificant. Strasburg served up a solo homer to James Darnell in the third, then was yanked after laboring through the fourth. In the process, he saw his ERA jump to 2.25 from 1.64.

Facing a significant deficit, the Nationals could not produce a rally against Padres starter Anthony Bass. The 24-year-old right-hander carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and carried a shutout into the fifth, until Bryce Harper belted his second home run in as many days.

Harper's blast into the center-field bleachers made him the first teenager to homer on back-to-back days since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989, but it did nothing to spark his teammates into a late offensive splurge. Bass wound up tossing eight innings of five-hit ball before finally turning things over to flamethrowing closer Andrew Cashner.

"Good-looking young pitcher," Johnson said of Bass. "Thought we had him kind of on the ropes a couple times, but just couldn't get the hit."

The Nationals never came close to getting Cashner on the ropes. San Diego's young closer made relatively quick work of the ninth, ending the game with a flourish as he blew a 101-mph fastball past Harper.

Thus the Nationals trudged off the field following a rare lopsided loss, only their fourth this season by more than four runs.

But their first in a game that featured a botched fly ball, an eight-minute rain delay and, of course, some unfortunately placed analgesic ointment.

"It was just tough conditions all around," Strasburg said. "But I'm not one to make excuses. It's just one of those games where you go out there and do your best to overcome the obstacles. Sometimes you just can't get out of it the way you want to."

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Murphy, Scherzer slam Mets with 7th straight win

Murphy, Scherzer slam Mets with 7th straight win

NEW YORK -- Daniel Murphy hit an early grand slam against his former team, Max Scherzer pitched eight fiery innings and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Sunday night for their seventh straight victory.

Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run homer for the Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep of the short-handed Mets in the first series this season between the NL East rivals.

Missing slugger Yoenis Cespedes and two other injured starters, New York (8-11) has lost four in a row and eight of nine to fall 5 1/2 games behind the Nationals, who own the best record in the majors at 13-5. The winning streak is their longest since a seven-game run last April.

Scherzer (3-1) struck out nine and walked one in his latest win over the Mets, a team he has often dominated -- especially since signing with Washington in January 2015. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who fanned 17 in a no-hitter at Citi Field on Oct. 3, 2015, pumped his fist and slapped his glove after setting down the crucial hitters in this one.

Koda Glover got three outs for his second major league save, both in the past two days.

Michael Conforto hit his second leadoff homer of the series and had three hits for New York. Neil Walker's two-run homer pulled the Mets to 4-3 in the third, but that was all Scherzer allowed. He got a double-play grounder after Conforto's one-out single in the fifth and retired his final 10 batters.

Murphy connected in the first off Zack Wheeler (1-2), who had sharp stuff throughout his seven innings of four-hit ball. Zimmerman went deep in the eighth against reliever Josh Smoker to make it 6-3.

Murphy, booed by the Queens crowd, has eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 22 games against the Mets since they let him leave as a free agent before last season.

More Nationals: DOES MIKE RIZZO SEE THE NATS HAVING A CLOSER BY COMMITTEE?​

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Daniel Murphy strikes again vs. Mets with second career grand slam

Daniel Murphy strikes again vs. Mets with second career grand slam

If you can’t be with them — beat them.

That seems to be the slogan Daniel Murphy has lived by since leaving the Mets in 2015.

Tonight’s game started off with a bang… a grand slam by Murphy himself. This helped launch the Nationals to a 4-0 lead.

Just like these boys in the tweet, we “give a five” to Murphy as it was also the second grand slam of his career, both hit while playing under the Nationals. This follows his career night where he helped the Nats knock off the Cardinals

Muprhy has absolutely owned the Mets since joing the Nationals. he has recorded at least one base hit in all 19 head-to-head games.

RELATED: DOES MIKE RIZZO SEE THE NATS HAVING A CLOSER BY COMITTEE?