WASHINGTON (AP) — Ian Desmond’s three-run homer was the hardest ball hit by the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
The high-fives he doled out after crossing home plate were the next hardest.
Desmond’s homer keyed a 15-hit attack, Stephen Strasburg pitched six solid innings and the Nationals defeated the Texas Rangers 9-2.
“I think it was just a party,” Desmond said when asked if his emphatic exchange with teammates Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth was a release of frustration from a team that had lost six of its last seven games.
“We’re not having enough fun, and people have been making that known to us. So every time we hit one from now on, it’s a party in there,” he said, explaining “people” referred to friends, family and teammates.
McLouth, the on-deck hitter, at least had a moment to prepare for Desmond.
“I think he got ‘Roche first, so I kind of gave a little bit,” he said. “I put a little cushion in my shoulder.”
Werth and Denard Span had three hits each.
Previously slumping, Washington’s offense has 14 runs and 30 hits in its last two games.
Strasburg (4-4) allowed two unearned runs and six hits. He struck out nine and walked one, and bounced back after his second-inning error led to the Texas runs.
“I think he’s coming into his own, starting to show a little bulldogness out there,” Desmond said. “I don’t know if that’s a word, but that’s what I see.”
It was the eighth straight start in which Strasburg has pitched at least six innings and allowed three runs or less. He improved his ERA to a season-low 3.15.
“We had some more opportunities against him and we just couldn’t get a base hit,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “But he’s a quality pitcher.”
Adrian Beltre had three hits for Texas, which fell to 6-3 on its 11-game road trip.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis (4-4) allowed six runs, five earned, and nine hits in taking his first road loss.
Strasburg had thrown 88 pitches when manager Matt Williams lifted him in the sixth for a pinch-hitter with two outs and two on.
The moved paid off when Tyler Moore’s double to left scored both runners, increasing Washington’s lead to 6-2.
The Nationals added two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth.
Washington trailed 2-0 in the fourth when Werth and LaRoche singled with one out.
Lewis struck out Wilson Ramos, but Desmond sent a 1-0 fastball into the seats in center for his 10th home run.
“I felt like I warmed up great. I felt like I had great stuff tonight.” Lewis said. “Like I said, they got the hits when they needed to, with two outs, that’s it. Nothing more to say.”
Span used his speed to make it 4-2 after he singled in the fifth.
Running on the pitch, he kept going around second on a grounder to third. First baseman Mitch Moreland’s throw back to the third was wild and Span scored.
Texas took the lead during a bizarre second inning.
Beltre doubled leading off, but Strasburg stuck out the next two hitters and should have been out of the inning when Leonys Martin hit a slow bouncer to the mound.
The ball bounced off Strasburg’s glove, then his head, and fell to the ground. He still had a chance to get Martin but missed a stab at the ball.
Strasburg then surrendered RBI singles to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, Rougned Odor and Lewis. Lewis’ hit snapped an 0-for-23 stretch by Rangers pitchers going back to June 20, 2012.
After Odor’s single Strasburg appeared to grimace and Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and the trainer went to the mound, but Strasburg was fine.
“He was doing some funny things out there, so I went out there and asked him and he got mad at me so I left,” Williams said.
NOTES: Texas was making its second trip back to its original home city since the franchise left Washington in 1971. Texas took 2 of 3 from the Nationals in June 2008. … Rangers RHP Yu Darvish, scratched from his start on Tuesday night because of neck discomfort, remains on track to pitch Sunday after throwing a side session Friday. … Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman (broken right thumb) began a rehab assignment Friday night with at Class A Potomac. … Williams said LHP Gio Gonzalez (left shoulder inflammation) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Friday. He will pitch a simulated game Sunday and if all goes well, a rehab start next week. … Desmond (77) moved ahead of Adam Dunn for second on Nationals all-time home run list. Zimmerman leads with 181. … Rangers RHP Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95) opposes RHP Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42) on Saturday.
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