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Nationals beats Padres, Strasburg enjoys successful homecoming

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- Stephen Strasburg said he didn't have Thursday circled on his calendar.

"I didn't even know if I was going to pitch here," said the San Diego native, who pitched in high school at nearby Santee and in college at San Diego State before becoming the top pick in the 2009 amateur draft. "I think I was supposed to pitch here last year but we had a rain-out. You never know what's going to happen."

Strasburg made it happen for the Washington Nationals in his first professional outing in his hometown against the San Diego Padres.

Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper homered, and Strasburg quieted the Padres' offense in the Washington Nationals' 6-2 victory at Petco Park.

Strasburg (2-5) allowed two runs (one earned) in a career-high eight innings. He gave up three hits and three walks while striking out four, throwing 117 pitches, 68 of them for strikes.

"I thought he pitched a heck of a ballgame," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It was a good homecoming for him. I didn't think he was as sharp as he usually is. Nice to see some offense come alive and give him some run support."

The six runs were the most by the Nationals in Strasburg's starts this season. The win ended a seven-game winless streak for Strasburg, who had recorded one win since April 1, when he beat the Miami Marlins.

"I just wanted to go out there and do a better job of having a better mound presence out there," Strasburg said. "Just go out there and relax and do my thing. And we swung the bat pretty well today."

The Nationals touched up Padres starter Edinson Volquez, who had a 3-0 mark with a 2.59 ERA in his last five starts, for five runs on five hits and four walks in five innings. Volquez (3-4) struck out seven, including five of the six batters early in the game before giving up two runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth.

Harper returned to the Nationals' lineup three days after he crashed into the wall at Dodger Stadium He had missed the past two starts.

Harper drilled the first pitch he saw from reliever Tyson Ross with two outs in the seventh, with the ball landing an estimated 431 feet and well past the wall in straightaway center.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak at home for the Padres (18-22) and was only their second defeat at Petco in the last 11 games. The Nationals (22-19) halted a two-game skid.

LaRoche broke up a scoreless contest and produced the Nationals' first hit by driving a Volquez pitch over the wall in right center for a 2-0 lead after a walk to Ryan Zimmerman with one out in the fourth. The home run allowed LaRoche to extend his career-best hitting streak to 13 games.

"I was trying to go down and away and I left it up," Volquez said.

The Nationals added three runs in the fifth. An RBI single by Steve Lombardozzi drove in Kurt Suzuki before Zimmerman delivered a two-run hit to center to score Denard Span and Lombardozzi for a 5-0 advantage.

The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning. Strasburg gave up a leadoff double to Jedd Gyorko and a walk to Alexi Amarista. Kyle Blanks reached on a fielder's choice. Everth Cabrera's RBI groundout plated a run, but that was it.

"He kept the ball down for the most part," San Diego's Yonder Alonso said of Strasburg. "We had the bases loaded and we couldn't get it done."

NOTES: Heisman Trophy-winning Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel threw out the first pitch and took batting practice before the game. Manziel has been working out in San Diego with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. ... Harper said before the game that the entire left side of his body remained sore from Monday's collision, which also required him to have 11 stitches on his chin. "I hit the wall at about 100 miles per hour, so I don't think anytime soon that I don't feel it," Harper said. "I'll just go out there and do what I can." ... The Padres have committed just 10 errors in the past 29 games. Their .911 fielding percentage ranked second in the National League and third in the Majors entering Thursday's contest. ... Padres LHP Clayton Richard allowed just four hits and one run in six innings Thursday during a rehab appearance for Triple-A Tucson. He has been on the disabled list since May 5 due to an intestinal virus. ... The game drew an announced crowd of 24,234.
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