WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had two outs and two strikes on Florida Marlins slugger Mike Stanton in the first inning Saturday night — and he went right at him.
Strasburg fired a high 99 mph fastball past Stanton for the strikeout, showing he can still dominate hitters with his power.
But his manager was even happier to see Strasburg get through six innings with three strikeouts, his lowest total in 15 career starts.
"It's fun to watch," Washington manager Davey Johnson said of Strasburg's punch-out pitch.
"I know the fans love it. As a manager, I don't like to see it because he elevates and adds to it. I'd rather just move it inside and do about the same speed. But I'm sure he's got something else in mind."
Long after Strasburg left, Donnie Murphy's two-run home run in the 13th inning helped give the Marlins a 4-1 win over the Nationals.
John Buck led off the 13th with a single and Murphy hit a 1-1 pitch from Colin Balester (1-4) into the visitors' bullpen in left-center field for his first homer this year.
"Last year, it seemed like every time I came up in that situation, something good happened," Murphy said. "And this year, there's been a couple times where I haven't. But it's just nice to get that first one."
Stanton doubled in Omar Infante later in the inning to give the Marlins a three-run cushion. Clay Hensley (5-6) struck out the side in the 12th inning for the win, and Leo Nunez pitched the 13th for his 36th save.
The loss mattered less to the Nationals than seeing their star right-hander come back strong after a rough outing.
Strasburg allowed one run and four hits over six innings in his third start after Tommy John surgery and was much more efficient than his last start Sept. 11, when he threw 57 pitches in three innings. Against the Marlins, he needed just 61 pitches for an outing twice as long.
"You're going to have games like this, you're going to have games like the last one," Strasburg said. "Sometimes you're going to go out there and throw a lot of pitches, but it's all about how you bounce back, how you make adjustments and see if you can keep the team in the ballgame."
Strasburg's control has been even more impressive than his power after returning from the surgery. Strasburg has yet to walk a batter in 14 innings this year.
"I'm just trying to throw strikes. Walks are going to happen," Strasburg said. "No one can go out and throw the ball exactly where they want to every single time."
Before the game, Johnson said he'd likely let Strasburg throw around 70 pitches. However, when the seventh inning started, Johnson sent out reliever Henry Rodriguez rather than let Strasburg continue.
"He had a lot left," Johnson said. "He could have actually gone further, he could have gone another inning, but I figured six innings was plenty."
Florida starter Chris Volstad also left with a no-decision despite a strong performance. Volstad allowed one run and six hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out three. Volstad has gone nine starts without earning a win.
Volstad also got the biggest hit of the night off Strasburg, a leadoff double in the third. Volstad later scored on Infante's sacrifice fly.
"He wasn't really happy that the pitcher hit his fastball," Johnson said of Strasburg.
Wilson Ramos hit his 13th homer in the fifth inning for the Nationals, who have lost the first two games of the three-game series.
After Ramos' homer tied the game at 1, a combination of strong bullpens and missed opportunities kept the teams playing until the 13th inning.
Murphy entered the game in the 10th inning as part of a double switch in which left fielder Logan Morrison left the game. Morrison injured his right knee after sliding into the wall while making a catch in foul territory to end the ninth. Marlins manager Jack McKeon said Morrison would not play Sunday.
Balester pitched the final three innings and didn't allow a hit until the 13th.
"Both teams are battling out there, both bullpens are pitching good, and the starters pitched well, and you kind of feed off each other," Balester said. "After a while, something's going to happen and it's too bad it happened to us."
Notes: Strasburg is scheduled to make his next start Friday against the Atlanta Braves. Johnson said it was possible Strasburg could also pitch in the Nationals' final game, Sept. 28 at Florida. ... Washington RHP Brad Peacock (1-0) will make his second major league start Wednesday. ... The Marlins are 7-1 this season and 26-8 all time at Nationals Park. ... Nationals RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) will start Sunday against Marlins LHP Brad Hand (1-7).