WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg struggled during pregame warmups and tweaked his groin in the second inning. Yet after nine innings, he was still on the mound for the first time in the majors.
Strasburg pitched a four-hitter and struck out 10 in the first complete game of his career, Jayson Werth had his second straight three-hit game and the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep with a 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night.
Strasburg (6-9) dominated the Phillies for his first win since July 7 against San Diego. The Nationals, who have been famously cautious with their star pitcher’s workload throughout his career, had lost five straight games started by the right-hander.
“I’ve learned how to go out there and get outs with less pitches,” Strasburg said after finishing off the Phillies with an efficient 99 pitches.
He’s also learned how to pitch when not at his best, which in this case allowed him to hear the crowd of 32,355 chanting his name during the final inning.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel good at all. I didn’t really have good command in the bullpen,” Strasburg said. “When that’s happened in the past, I feel like I would just try to jam it down their throat and throw it as hard as I can. I kind of learned that really didn’t get much accomplished.”
The Phillies never had a runner in scoring position during their 11th straight road loss. Philadelphia has lost nine of 11 overall and 17 of 20.
“It’s been tough,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Since I’ve been managing in the major leagues, this is definitely the toughest stretch we’ve ever had.”
The sweep denied Manuel the 1,000th win of his career.
Washington scored two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth against Kyle Kendrick (10-9), who surrendered 11 hits over 5 1-3 innings. All 13 of the Nationals’ hits were singles.
“It wasn’t like they were killing him,” Manuel said. “He battled, but they put up some runs on him.”
When needed, Strasburg provided the power.
“He’s tough,” Manuel said. “His breaking ball really set up his fastball in the middle innings until the end of the game. He was good. Power when he wanted it.”
In between wins, Strasburg went 0-3 with a 4.93 ERA in five starts, though the Nationals scored only 10 runs in those games. Two of Strasburg’s six victories on the season have come against the Phillies.
His biggest stress came starting the second inning. He winced after throwing a second straight ball to Domonic Brown, leading to a visit from the Nationals’ training staff.
“We were concerned when we went out during the game that it was something with his arm,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson of Strasburg, who had Tommy John surgery on his right shoulder in 2010.
“If he didn’t fly open, it didn’t bother him,” Johnson said of Strasburg’s pitching motion. “Obviously, it didn’t bother him.”
After walking Brown on four pitches — the only walk he issued — Strasburg struck out Darin Ruf and Cody Asche on his way to retiring 14 of the next 15 batters. The right-hander has allowed two or fewer runs in 11 of 13 home starts.
Johnson, who has been dealing with back pain, said he would get an epidural treatment on Monday. With Strasburg in control, the manager headed to the locker room for treatment after the middle innings.
He later had company, as Werth left the game after the sixth. The right fielder tweaked his knee while scoring during a home plate collision in the fifth inning, Johnson said.
“We were sharing tables there in the eighth inning,” the winning manager cracked, before adding he expects Werth available for Tuesday’s series opener against San Francisco.
Werth, who had a go-ahead, two-run homer among his three hits Saturday, delivered an RBI single in the first inning to give Washington a 1-0 lead.
Steve Lombardozzi also had three hits, including an RBI single.
Philadelphia had not been swept by the Nationals-Expos franchise since losing a four-game series from August 25-28, 2003, while in Montreal.
Making his fourth start against the Nationals this season, Kendrick allowed six runs, four earned. He has allowed 14 earned runs over his last 13 1-3 innings.
Wilson Ramos and Denard Span each had RBI singles in the fourth inning.
Chase Utley’s throwing error in the fifth allowed Werth and an alert Ian Desmond to score from second base. Lombardozzi tacked on an RBI single for the Nationals’ third run of the inning.
Kevin Frandsen had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
Notes: The Nationals scored 23 runs in the three-game series after totaling 20 in their previous eight games. … Philadelphia’s last road win came July 19 at Cincinnati in its first game after the All-Star break….The Phillies’ road trip continues at Atlanta on Monday with LHP Cole Hamels (4-13, 3.81 ERA) facing RHP Julio Teheran (9-5, 2.96). … Following a day off, the Nationals opener pits LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.52 ERA) against Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75 ERA).