Strasburg returns, pitches into 6th, Nats beat Orioles 4-2

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Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg delivers during the third inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg pitched into the sixth inning in his return from the injured list, allowing just one hit as the Washington Nationals defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 on Friday night.

Strasburg (1-1) started for the first time since April 13. He had been sidelined with right shoulder inflammation.

Anthony Santander’s leadoff single in the second was the only hit allowed by Strasburg, who walked four and struck out four in 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He threw 72 pitches and picked up his first win in a regular season game since Sept. 26, 2019. Strasburg won two games in the 2019 World Series, including Game 6, to earn MVP honors.

“It’s not where I want it to be, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Strasburg said. “Execution standpoint, there’s definitely some room for improvement.

“It’s still only May, I feel good coming out of the start, take what I can from it and get ready for the next one.”

When Strasburg departed, the crowd of 14,369 at Nationals Park applauded heartily. It was the first game played with an increased capacity of 36 percent. Full capacity will be permitted on June 10.

“I think not having it for so long, you take it for granted,” Strasburg said of the fans. “You really rely on that. You get the fans into the game, and it gives you that extra boost. The atmosphere changes so much, and we really appreciate it as players.”

Baltimore has lost 11 of 13 since John Means threw a no-hitter on May 5.

Washington scored two runs against Jorge López (1-5) in the fifth. López, who has an ERA of 27.00 in the fifth inning got the first two outs of the inning, and then allowed four straight hits, including back-to-back doubles by Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber and a run-scoring single by Josh Harrison.

Bell had three hits and drove in the Nationals’ fourth run.

Freddy Galvis hit a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth against Brad Hand. Trey Mancini had two hits for the Orioles.

The Orioles have had just six hits in the last two games.

“It’s a little bit challenging,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We didn’t score until the ninth.”

CHEERS OF THE CROWD

The Nationals used the increased fan capacity as well as Strasburg’s return to pump them up.

“It gets the fans into the game, and it gives you that extra boost,” Strasburg said. “We really appreciate it as players. Last year and early on this year, I’m sure a lot more fans wanted to be here, and the powers that be said they couldn’t. We’re just happy that they’re here now.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: Santander returned from the 10-day injured list. Santander had been out since April 21 with a sprained left ankle. He was 1 for 4.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles missed his second game with a sore right ankle. The team sent him for an MRI on Friday. “He went to get an MRI today, we’re waiting on the results,” manager Davey Martinez said. “As the day progressed yesterday, he got sore. So we waited to make sure we got an MRI today.” … RHPs Erick Fedde and Tanner Rainey remain in quarantine in Chicago. They’re both on the Covid-19 injured list.

UP NEXT

Orioles: LHP Bruce Zimmermann (2-3, 4.79) starts. On May 16, Zimmermann pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief to beat the New York Yankees.

Nationals: LHP Jon Lester (0-2, 3.80) starts for the 28th time against the Orioles, but for the first time since 2014. Lester’s lifetime record against Baltimore is 15-4 with a 2.78 ERA.

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