Strasburg strikes out 9, Nats beat Phillies 5-1 for sweep

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Strasburg threw seven impressive innings, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto homered and the Washington Nationals beat the freefalling Philadelphia Phillies 5-1 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep.

Even Cy Young Award contender Aaron Nola (16-5) couldn’t end Philadelphia’s skid. The Phillies have lost five in a row to drop 7 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East with 17 to play. They’re 11-23 since Aug. 5, when they had the NL’s second-best record.

Strasburg (8-7) allowed one run and struck out nine in his best start since April. He improved to 12-2 against the Phillies.

Nola allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. His ERA rose to 2.42. He’s given up four runs twice in September after only doing it twice in his first 27 starts.

Nola, Mets ace Jacob deGrom and Washington’s Max Scherzer are the front-runners in the NL Cy Young race. Scherzer has won the past two and previously won the award in the American League with Detroit in 2013.

Harper crushed his 33rd homer, a two-run shot into Philadelphia’s bullpen in the first to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Anthony Rendon followed with a double and scored on Zimmerman’s single.

Zimmerman connected in the fourth, sending a drive into the bushes in straightaway center. Odubel Herrera made a leaping attempt at the fence and nearly caught it.

Soto drove one into the second deck in right field in the sixth off Austin Davis to make it 5-1. The 19-year-old rookie has 19 homers. Harper hit 22 homers as a teenager for the Nationals in 2012.

J.P. Crawford hit a solo shot in the fifth for Philadelphia’s only run.

MILESTONE MAN

Nola became the first Phillies pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season since Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in 2013.

CATCHING UP

The Nationals closed within a half-game of the Phillies for second place behind the Braves.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Joe Ross makes his first start of the season Thursday in a makeup game against the Cubs.

Phillies: RHP Zach Eflin (9-7, 4.42 ERA) pitches Friday night against Miami in the opener of a three-game series. Eflin is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts vs. the Marlins this season.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.