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Former Top Pick Strasburg Dominates Red Sox

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BOSTON, MA - JUNE 8: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals throws in the first inning against Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park June 8, 2012  in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

BOSTON, MA – JUNE 8: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals throws in the first inning against Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park June 8, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (AP) _ Two of baseball’s youngest stars made very
memorable debuts at the game’s oldest field.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 in six innings, Bryce Harper
homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Boston Red Sox 7-4 on
Friday night for the franchise’s first victory at Fenway Park.

“It’s an unreal experience, coming in and playing for the first
time at Fenway,” said Harper, who had three hits and drove in
three runs. “It was so much fun. They just have a great fan base
and it’s just great to play here.”

Harper admitted to being a little jittery before the game.
Fenway is 100 years old this season. Harper isn’t quite 20. But he
played like a veteran Friday, dusting himself off after striking
out in the first inning and helping the Nationals to three-run
rallies in the third and fourth innings.

Strasburg also acknowledged playing in the iconic ballpark may
have made him a little anxious, but he also settled down after
allowing two runs in the second inning and tied his season high for
strikeouts while throwing a career-high 119 pitches.

“Obviously you don’t want to go out there and throw that many
pitches through six innings, but sometimes they’re just going to
make you work,” Strasburg said. “I knew it was up there, but I
had so much adrenaline being at Fenway for the first time it didn’t
really matter.”

The Montreal Expos went 0-6 at Fenway before the club moved to
Washington. The Nationals were 0-3 in Boston, but Harper and
Strasburg showed why Washington is in front in the NL East.

“It was good to see all the young guys here rise, knowing
they’re playing in one of the most historic ballparks in the
game,” Strasburg said. “It’s awesome to go out there and be
successful.”

Harper hit a two-run shot in the fourth and an RBI single in the
sixth.

Strasburg (7-1) needed 33 pitches to get out of his final inning
when he worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam. He finished one
strikeout shy of his career high of 14, set on June 8, 2010 _
exactly two years ago to the day Friday _ against Pittsburgh in his
major league debut.

Strasburg struck out five straight and seven of eight during a
stretch from the third inning to the fifth. He gave up two runs and
four hits while improving to 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA in his last four
starts.

“He threw a lot of pitches in six innings for sure. Like they
were saying, he’s not just a thrower, he’s a pitcher,” Boston
manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s special. He’s a very good
pitcher, obviously.”

Boston starter Felix Doubront (6-3) was even better than
Strasburg early on, striking out four in the first two innings, but
the Nationals got to him for three runs in the third on three hits
and a pair of walks. They added three more in the fourth, including
a pair on Harper’s two-run shot to straightaway center, while
building a 6-2 lead.

Doubront lasted just four innings and was charged with six runs
and eight hits, five of them doubles.

Adrian Gonzalez hit his 200th career homer, a solo shot off Ross
Detwiler in the eighth, and Daniel Nava delivered an RBI double in
the ninth against Brad Lidge to get Boston within three. Washington
then brought in Tyler Clippard, who got two outs for his sixth save
in seven chances.

Strasburg faltered a bit in the second when he walked David
Ortiz to start the inning, Ryan Sweeney hit a two-out single and
Mike Aviles doubled off the Green Monster to drive in both runners.

“He was throwing the heck out of the ball,” Washington manager
Davey Johnson said. “He got a little out of sorts I thought there
early in the ballgame, but came back and started really going after
them.”

The early Boston lead was short-lived.

After striking out in his first at-bat, Harper showed why he’s
among the early leaders for rookie of the year when he hit a line
drive to center in the third that he stretched into a double.

Danny Espinosa, who was aboard after a leadoff walk, moved to
third on Harper’s play and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s single. Ian
Desmond doubled to right-center to put Washington up 3-2.

Espinosa doubled in Tyler Moore in the fourth and scored on
Harper’s sixth homer.

Dustin Pedroia singled with one out in the sixth for Boston’s
first hit since the second inning, snapping an 0-for-14 slump and
getting a loud cheer from Fenway fans who had watched Strasburg
strike out batter after batter.

The Red Sox then caught up to Strasburg for a stretch. Gonzalez
followed Pedroia with a double off the Green Monster and Ortiz
walked to load the bases with one out. But the right-hander then
struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging and got Kevin Youkilis
looking on a 96-mph fastball.

“That’s the difference between great pitchers and ones that
aren’t,” Saltalamacchia said. “He just did a great job of getting
himself out of jams.”

Youkilis thought the final pitch was low and furiously argued
the call before he was ejected by umpire Doug Eddings.

NOTES: Harper is the second-youngest visiting player to homer at
Fenway. Robin Yount was 32 days younger when he homered here for
Milwaukee in 1975. … Strasburg also struck out 13 in a 4-2 win
over Pittsburgh on May 10. … Friday’s game was the first of 15
straight Washington will play against teams from the American
League East, meeting every team three times. … Boston pitching
coach Bob McClure was attending to a family matter and not with the
team.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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