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Strasburg, Nationals Complete Sweep Of Mets

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Stephen Strasburg (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Stephen Strasburg (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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^By HOWIE RUMBERG,  AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stephen Strasburg struck out 11 in seven dominant innings, Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa hit consecutive homers and the Washington Nationals completed a sweep of the free-falling New York Mets on Wednesday with a 5-2 victory.

Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer for a second straight day, and Espinosa doubled and scored on one of the Mets’ two errors in the Nationals’ fifth win in a row. The team with the NL’s best record (58-39) has won seven of 10.

Strasburg (11-4) struck out five in a row and gave up four hits in matching his career best for innings, done seven times.

Ike Davis homered for New York in the finale of an 0-6 homestand, played in front of many camp groups wearing brightly colored T-shirts in the upper decks of Citi Field.

The Mets’ 1-11 slide after the All-Star break is approaching their record for futility to start the second half. The only team
worse in club history was its first. The 1962 Mets won just one of their first 15 games and set a record for losses with a 40-120 record.

These Mets went into the All-Star break 46-40 and optimistic they would compete for one of two NL wild-card spots. But injuries to ace Johan Santana and Dillon Gee and an offense that has stalled has New York fading fast. The Mets have lost 12 games in a span of 13 for first time since 2004.

Facing Strasburg didn’t help the slump.

Washington manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg “doesn’t trust his stuff” after the 24-year-old gave up four runs in the sixth inning of his last start– the game in which the Braves rallied from a 9-0 deificit to beat the Nationals 11-10 in 11 innings. He was in command this time.

Other than allowing Davis’ blistering line drive into the right field stands on the first pitch of the second inning and Daniel
Murphy’s single in the next at-bat, Strasburg allowed only Josh Thole’s ground-rule double in the fifth and Jordany Valdespin’s single in the sixth.

Strasburg reached double digits in strikeouts for the fourth time this season and seventh of his young career, striking out
David Wright three times. On the last K, a frustrated Wright just tossed all his equipment.

Wright grounded out with runners on second and third against reliever Sean Burnett to end the eighth. The Mets had scored a run on Valdespin’s grounder after walking the bases loaded.

Tyler Clippard, the Nationals’ fifth reliever, pitched a perfect ninth for his 18 save in 20 chances since taking over the closer role in May.

Strasaburg reached 97 on the scoreboard radar, and had at least one strikeout in each inning but the second. He fanned five in a row beginning with Valdespin to start the third.

The big right-hander has 25 Ks in 18 innings pitched against the Mets in his career.

Starting for Santana, Jeremy Hefner (1-4) labored through six innings, but gave the Mets a chance by working out of several jams.

He gave up six hits and three runs — two earned– in his fourth big league start. Hefner struck out seven and walked two.

Heffner put runners on in each inning but the fifth. Morse led off the second with an opposite field drive into the lower deck in right. Espinosa then pulled one halfway up the overhanging upper deck in right field to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

Davis quickly got a run back in the bottom half with his 16th homer.

Espinosa doubled and scored in the fourth when he broke for home on Sandy Leon’s soft grounder to Davis, who fielded the ball on the grass in front of first base. Davis’ throw was on the mark but cacther Josh Thole could not hold onto the throw to tag the sliding Espinosa. Thole was given an error and the Nationals led 3-1.

La Roche hit a long drive to right field in the seventh off Tim
Byrdak an out after Bryce Harper walked for a 5-1 lead.

NOTES: The last time the Mets had a winless homestand of six games or more was in 2002. … Mets closer Frank Francisco (knee) allowed one run and three hits in two-thirds of an inning during a rehabilitation appearance with Double-A Binghamton on Wednesday. … Mets manager Terry Collins hopes Santana (ankle) will be able to throw off a mound next week. Collins said Santana is on track to return to the Mets around Aug. 8 or 9. … Nationals OF Jayson
Werth (broken wrist) played five innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse. He went 0 for 3. … Washington is 9-3 against New York this season.

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

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