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Strasburg loses first start in St. Louis, Nationals offence fails in 4-1 loss to Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS - For the second straight game, a Washington Nationals starter could have used one do-over. Both times, it was against Matt Adams.

Stephen Strasburg got a little too much of the plate on a 3-1 fastball that Adams hammered for the go-ahead home run leading off St. Louis' three-run seventh in a 4-1 victory Saturday night.

"In that situation I wanted to throw him a borderline pitch, I didn't want to just lay one in there," Strasburg said. "But I think I need to throw a different pitch because you can see he can hit a ball a long way."

Strasburg (6-5) allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings with five strikeouts and a walk. It was his 11th consecutive quality start, but he dropped to 5-3 with a 2.22 ERA in that stretch that began April 20 when he gave up two runs in six innings at home against the Cardinals.

"In the grand scheme of things you can always second-guess yourself," Strasburg said. "But I think if I threw a 3-1 changeup there, especially if he's in swing mode, I probably wouldn't have had that result.

"Who knows? I'm not going to dwell on it too much, just going to learn from it and move on."

Strasburg made his first career appearance in St. Louis. He missed the Nationals' five-game NL division series loss in 2012 after getting shut down the final month due to concerns about a heavy workload.

"It was just fun to finally get a chance to pitch here," Strasburg said. "I wanted to go out there and give it everything I had and I feel like I did that, so I can sleep easy tonight."

Jayson Werth had an RBI double in the first for the Nationals, who managed just four hits for a two-day total of six and have scored two runs during a three-game losing streak. It's their first series loss since losing a pair to Miami from May 26-28, and they will try to avoid a three-game sweep in the series finale Sunday.

"Last three games it just hasn't been there for us," manager Matt Williams said. "If we know anything, it can turn around in a hurry. We just have to be prepared for tomorrow."

On Friday, Adams homered off Jordan Zimmermann on his first swing since coming off the 15-day disabled list from a left calf strain, lifting St. Louis to a 1-0 victory.

The Cardinals batted around in the seventh with the help of two infield hits, a hit batter and two walks, one of them by Matt Holliday with the bases loaded against Drew Storen. Allen Craig added an infield hit off Storen on a slow tapper halfway down the third-base line.

St. Louis reliever Randy Choate (1-2) needed one pitch to escape a bases-loaded threat in the seventh after a strong start from Shelby Miller, who gave up four hits in 6 2-3 innings. Pat Neshek worked a perfect eighth and Trevor Rosenthal finished for his 19th save in 22 chances.

St. Louis pitchers have permitted just one run in the Cardinals' last five victories, including a pair of 5-0 wins over Toronto and a 1-0 victory against Tampa Bay.

Miller matched his season best with seven strikeouts but walked four, including two for Strasburg, batting .077 with two hits on the year. Strasburg's second walk loaded the bases, but Denard Span grounded out against Choate.

Span went 0 for 4 and is hitless in his last 18 at-bats over the last five games.

Anthony Rendon singled with one out in the first and scored from first on Werth's double to right-centre. Craig made a sliding stop to cut the ball off and couldn't recover in time.

It was tied in the third after a two-out rally started by Miller's fourth hit of the season — and third double. The pitcher scored standing up on Matt Carpenter's single.

NOTES: Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia (2-0, 4.26 ERA) opposes Doug Fister (5-1, 2.68 ERA) on Sunday. Garcia is 3-1 against the Nationals and Fister has won his last five starts. ... The game time of 2 hours, 3 minutes for the series opener Friday night was the shortest in the major leagues this season. ... The Cardinals have won 11 of the last 13 regular-season meetings with Washington and are 17-2 at home the last two years against the NL East. ... The Nationals are 30-2 when scoring four or more runs and 5-30 when scoring three or fewer runs.

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