Strasburg fastest to 1,500 Ks, Nationals beat Cardinals 2-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg’s record-setting night ended on a somber note.

The right-hander reached 1,500 strikeouts in fewer innings than any pitcher in major league history, and the Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 after a long rain delay Thursday to salvage the finale of a four-game series.

Despite the strong performance by Strasburg, the Nationals (13-17) fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist after the game and replaced him with minor league pitching coordinator Paul Menhart. General manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement moments after the final out.

“We felt that both the rotation and the bullpen, we thought that we had some flaws in there. We thought that there (were) preparation issues in there and we thought that we wanted to get a new message and a new voice,” Rizzo said.

The Nationals began the day with a 4.95 ERA that ranked 13th out of 15 NL teams.

Strasburg (3-1) lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up a run on six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He got opposing starter Dakota Hudson looking in the fifth for his eighth strikeout of the game and the 1,500th of his career — in 1,272 1/3 innings.

“It’s pretty cool but I think I was told a long time ago that strikeouts aren’t everything,” Strasburg said. “I think it’s important to know how to put guys away when you have two strikes, but at the same time, I get myself into trouble when I’m trying to strike them out.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Boston left-hander Chris Sale held the previous mark, reaching 1,500 Ks in 2017 after 1,290 innings.

“Here’s a guy that missed a considerable amount of time in his career and still has 1,500 strikeouts,” manager Dave Martinez said about Strasburg. “It tells me what an unbelievable pitcher he is and, if he stays healthy, the sky’s the limit.”

Sean Doolittle walked the first batter he faced but struck out pinch-hitter Paul Goldschmidt on a check swing with the bases loaded to end the eighth. Doolittle finished for his fourth save.

“Obviously, I went too far,” Goldschmidt said. “It is what it is. I had three pitches to hit there and fouled them all off. Didn’t get the job done, (he) punched me out.”

Hudson (2-2) allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits in six innings. Kolten Wong hit an RBI single and Yairo Munoz had three hits for St. Louis, which had won five straight.

The teams combined for 14 hits, all singles.

The Nationals scored twice in the fourth without an RBI.

Howie Kendrick came home when Munoz committed a throwing error from shortstop on Yan Gomes’ grounder, and Matt Adams scored from third when Brian Dozier grounded into a double play.

“We didn’t execute a play,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said, referring to Munoz’s error. “That happens. Didn’t catch it clean but he scored our only run, had three hits.”

The start was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 32 minutes.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: RHP Luke Gregerson (shoulder impingement), who threw to seven batters during a pregame batting practice session Wednesday, came out of it fine, according to Shildt. … OF Dexter Fowler (illness) was better Thursday and Shildt was hopeful Fowler would be available off the bench after missing two games.

Nationals: RF Juan Soto (back spasms) was a late scratch for the second straight game. Martinez said Soto had an MRI, which came back negative, and is day-to-day. … Martinez said SS Trea Turner (broken finger) could begin swinging the bat this week. … INF Carter Kieboom, who was 3 for 22 since his major league debut, was given a day off.

PICKED OFF

St. Louis had runners on first and second with no outs in the third before Gomes picked off Matt Wieters at second base from behind the plate. Hudson then sacrificed Munoz to second and the Cardinals settled for one run on Wong’s single.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (3-1, 4.06 ERA) pitches when the Cardinals open a three-game series Friday at the Chicago Cubs. Flaherty has not allowed a run in 12 innings this season during day games.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 5.82) starts when the Nationals begin a three-game series in Philadelphia on Friday night. Hellickson pitched six shutout innings against the Phillies on April 10.

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