Originally written on The Nats Blog  |  Last updated 6/27/13
Nationals-stephen
  Fire, rain and extra innings – Thursday’s game had everything but a rally by the Washington Nationals (39-39), who fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks (42-36) and failed to complete what could have been their first sweep since early April. The rain-delayed game was punctuated by a small fire in a bank of lights over section 228 during the 11th inning. But as the fire was extinguished, so were the Nationals’ hopes for a win, as they stranded their eighth base runner of the night and conceded the 3-2 victory to the Diamondbacks. It was postulated that a game featuring Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals’ marquee ace, and Patrick Corbin, the Diamondbacks’ only unbeaten starter, would be intriguing, but no one could have predicted how similarly the two pitchers would perform. Each starter threw seven innings, walked two batters, surrendered a two-run home run and threw 76 strikes, and their numbers that weren’t identical were pretty darn close. Strasburg gave up six hits, struck out four and threw 113 pitches to Corbin’s five hits, six strikeouts and 111 pitches. Both pitchers were also supported by highlight-reel worthy defense, as batters on both teams were robbed of hits multiple times. Despite their uncannily comparable and superb outings, they both left the game with a no decision, preserving Corbin’s 9-0 record and preventing Strasburg’s 4-6 mark from dipping any lower. Strasburg’s one mistake came during a rocky sixth inning, when he gave up a leadoff single to Corbin himself, which Aaron Hill followed with his third home run of the year. Though Strasburg would walk a batter and give up another single before getting out of the inning with his pitch count at 102, manager Davey Johnson showed his trust in his starter by sending him back out to pitch the seventh. Strasburg repaid that display of trust by using just 11 pitches to retire the side, ending by striking out Corbin. After how delicately Strasburg was handled last year, that situation showed that he is yet another step removed from the injury that has highlighted his young career. Corbin committed his single mistake during the fourth inning, when he walked Adam LaRoche in front of Ian Desmond, who hit a home run to get the Nationals on the board first.  Desmond’s home run was his 13th of the year, and made him the Nationals’ home run leader. It took over a month for someone to surpass Bryce Harper’s 12 home runs while he was out with his knee injury, which is just another reminder of how much his offensive contributions are missed. Harper has already hit a home run and a triple in his two rehab games this week, prompting questions of how soon he can return to the ball club Johnson described as “sputtering on scoring runs.” Johnson said, “I’ll take him whenever he’s ready. I just need to talk to him and see how he’s feeling.” For many Nats fans, the image of Harper on the horizon is enough to console them after disappointing wins such as Thursday’s, as the spark Harper has been known to provide could be enough to take the sputter out of the offense. 
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