Stephen Strasburg spun seven strong innings of two-run ball Wednesday as the Nationals held off the Rays, 3-2, in the middle test of a three-game set at Nationals Park.
Strasburg (9-1) scattered five hits and walked two while striking out 10 to earn his sixth straight victory and snap a four-game skid for Washington, which hadn't won since Strasburg last toed the rubber on June 13.
"He's a true No. 1 and he's still learning," remarked Davey Johnson about Strasburg. "I think the best is yet to come with him."
Tyler Clippard nailed down his 10th save of the year with a perfect ninth, while Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond each plated a run for the Nationals, who escaped with the victory despite registering just three hits as a team.
Rays starter Chris Archer (0-1) pitched well in his major league debut, but absorbed the loss after giving up three runs -- one earned -- on three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over six innings.
Jose Molina belted a solo home run and Hideki Matsui added an RBI base hit for Tampa Bay, which had won three of four before the setback.
"He threw some changeups that were just absolutely devastating and truly, basically impossible to hit," admitted Rays first baseman Carlos Pena about Strasburg. "If you're human, I don't know if you can hit those changeups."
The Nationals got to the 23-year-old early in his debut, striking for three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Steve Lombardozzi stroked a double to start the frame and quickly scored on Harper's line-drive single to center for a 1-0 lead.
Harper moved to second on the throw to the plate and Ryan Zimmerman then grounded to shortstop Elliot Johnson, who tried to get Harper as he moved to third, but his throw was off the mark and it trickled into the visitors dugout, allowing Harper to score and Zimmerman to land on second.
A wild pitch moved Zimmerman to third, where he remained until Desmond's two- out single through the left side made it a 3-0 game.
The Rays got one back in the second when Molina crushed a two-out homer deep into the left-field seats to give the Rays their first hit of the contest.
Pena's two-out walk kept the third inning alive and the Rays made Strasburg pay for the free pass as B.J. Upton and Matsui stroked consecutive singles, with Matsui's base hit scoring Pena to make it a 3-2 contest.
Archer settled down after a shaky first and kept the Nats hitless over the next five frames before being lifted in favor of a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
But Tampa Bay couldn't muster any offense against the Nationals bullpen as Sean Burnett fired a scoreless eighth before Clippard retired the Rays in order in the ninth to end the game.
Archer was the first pitcher in 232 games to start a game for the Rays who wasn't drafted by the team, ending the longest streak in major league history...Tampa Bay had won eight straight games in National League parks dating back to June 22, 2011, which tied for the longest streak in club history...After giving up two unearned runs in the first inning, the Rays have now allowed more unearned runs (38) through 68 games than they did all of last season (37)...It was just the fourth time since the franchise moved to Washington that the Nationals won with just three hits and the first since June 26, 2011 against the Chicago White Sox.