WASHINGTON -- With redemption on his mind, Stephen Strasburg took the mound on Sunday eager to rebound from one of the worst starts of his young career. After giving up six runs to the Phillies five days ago, the Nationals' 24-year-old ace dominated the Marlins early and barely relented, boosting Washington to a 4-1 win in the series finale with Miami on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.
Strasburg pitched six innings, but with a pitch count of only 91 pitches, manager Davey Johnson said the right-hander could've pitched another inning had it not been for the hot, humid weather, which Strasburg has repeatedly struggled in this season. The righty didn't allow a run and surrendered just three hits, while striking out six Marlins and walking just one.
The Nationals right-hander also extended his string of scoreless innings against the Marlins to 27, including 18 this year.
"That was a little reminiscent of last year," Johnson said in reference to Strasburg's brilliant, albeit shortened 2011 season. "He's just learning about himself and learning about the league. It's just a process [young pitchers] go through. He had a pretty good gameplan today and he stuck to it."
Strasburg has developed a pattern of rebounding strongly after weak starts, and that trend continued Sunday. Four times this season, Strasburg has allowed four earned runs or more, and in each subsequent start, he's surrendered no more than one run.
The start was also Strasburg's fifth in which he pitched six shutout innings. Additionally, his six strikeouts tied him with the Tigers' Max Scherzer for the Major League lead with 160 strikeouts.
"Four days in between [starts] definitely felt like a long time," Strasburg said. "I was just trying to not overanalyze everything and just move forward. I didn't really change anything. I just wanted to go out there and be a little bit more on top of my game and really attack the strike zone."
Through his six innings, Strasburg faced only four batters above the minimum. He also contributed to the Nats' cause at the plate, plating the first two runs of the game with a single in the second inning. Strasburg is now batting .343 (12-for-35) with seven RBIs.
"Somebody said, 'When we shut him down, can we keep his bat? Can we use him as a pinch hitter?'" Johnson said. "Highly unlikely."
Craig Stammen entered in the seventh and allowed two consecutive doubles, giving the Marlins their only run of the game. But after he settled down to escape the inning, Sean Burnett threw a perfect eighth inning and Drew Storen allowed only a two-out single in the ninth, earning his first save of the season after missing the first 3 1/2 months of the season following April surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.
Storen threw 13 pitches, 10 for strikes, with a dominant pairing of changeups and sliders to complement his fastball and sinker.
"It was a lot of fun, especially pitching for a first-place team in that situation," Storen said. "It doesn't get much better than that."
Offensively, the Nats scored all four runs of their runs in the second. Following Strasburg's single, Steve Lombardozzi walked and Bryce Harper singled to load the bases. Adam LaRoche drove in Strasburg and Lombardozzi with a two-out single to center field, extending his recent tear at the plate.
With the extraordinary number of injuries the Nationals have faced this season, LaRoche has been their most consistent force at the plate. The veteran first baseman leads the team with 23 home runs and has also now hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games. Perhaps most significantly, LaRoche's 71 RBIs lead all NL first basemen.
"We've got, from top to bottom right now, guys getting some big hits for us," LaRoche said. "I don't know, there's something to be said when you got a bunch of guys going. It takes the pressure off everybody."
Michael Morse, with a single in the fifth, also extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games -- the longest by any Nationals player this season.
All of the good vibes bode well for a team about to begin a 10-game road trip. The Nats open the stretch with four games against the Astros, who are last in the NL, before a pair of three-game sets with the D-backs and Giants.
"This is as good of a couple-week stretch as we could've asked for," LaRoche said. "The last road trip to this homestand, a couple come-from-behind wins mixed in there. To hit the road against some teams that we should beat. ... I'm not saying we'll throw our gloves out there and win a game. We need to go play. ... But this is a good opportunity to create some distance, for sure."
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.