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The Grand Slam: Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond propel Nats past Giants

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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Not many teams have been able to beat the San Francisco Giants lately. The Giants were baseball's first 40-win team, and entering Monday's action they were 13-3 since May 23. The Washington Nationals, meanwhile have been hot too. They'd won 9 of 11 since May 30, rising from third place to a tie for first in the NL East.

Whose hot streak would halt first when the Nats and Giants tangled in San Francisco? Not the team that had Stephen Strasburg on the bump.

Strasburg, the Nats ace, was on point, pitching four-hit ball over six innings and striking out seven, as Washington beat S.F. 9-2. Ian Desmond was a big help too, with three hits and a career-high five RBIs.

Here's more from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:

Strasburg continued an amazing run for Nationals starters: In the past seven games, they have 51 strikeouts against one walk. They are also the first starting rotation since 1914 to strike out 47 and walk none over a six-game span. 

“The biggest thing is, we’re just trying to go out there and keep it simple,” Strasburg said. “I think that’s kind of our identity. We’re going to go out there and pound the strike zone as a staff, let our defense do the work, keep it close, give our offense a chance to win the game.”

Also worth a note: This is the first trip back to the Bay Area as a manger for Matt Williams, a former Giant and now the Nats rookie skipper. It's off to a good start.

ASTROS KEEP WINNING: The Astros won again, downing the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 in a game where the young Astros needed to hold on to a lead the entire game. Houston scored four runs early, two each in the first and second innings, then needed their pitching to keep the D-backs under wraps the rest of the night. 

They did, and now the Astros are 29-36, trying to claw their way out of the cellar in the AL West. The Texas Rangers (31-33) are still a couple games ahead of the Astros in the division, but as Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan notes, there are now seven teams in baseball with worse records than the Astros. Not bad, Houston.

HOME RUN WATCH: Two of baseball's most-talked about sluggers so far this season were at it again, hitting the ball out of the yard — Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion. Abreu, the Chicago White Sox rookie, launched home run No. 18 in his team's 6-5 win over the Detroit Tigers. Abreu's two-run homer wasn't the lone difference maker, but it did help give the White Sox a 5-2 lead in the fifth. It's Abreu's third homer since coming off the disabled list last week.

Meanwhile, Blue Jays masher Encarnacion hit a three-run homer in his team's 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. That's home run No. 20 for Encarnacion, putting him one behind Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles, who leads all of MLB. Encarnacion has hit 18 of his homers since May 1.

SCOTT VAN SLYKE POWERS DODGERS: If not for Lonnie Chisenhall's amazing day at the plate, we might be talking more about what Scott Van Slyke did for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He blasted two homers and drove in four runs as L.A beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-2.

We often hear the Dodgers' four outfielders, but Van Slyke is No. 5, the backup who ever is more of an odd man out than Matt Kemp. On this night, however, Van Slyke was No. 1. His homers came in the first inning (a solo drive) and the fifth (a three-run jack). 

"He's been good for us all year,'' manager Don Mattingly said. ''This guy's just kind of slowly showing his value over time. He's a guy that sneaks up on you. Plays all three outfield spots really well.

''I think he's a guy that you could expand his role. Obviously that's not here right now.''

Good, or else Kemp was going to start crying.

For the rest of Monday's results, check out our scoreboard.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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