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Royals hand Nats’ Strasburg first loss

June 24, 2010

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— Sensational starts from Stephen Strasburg are no longer good enough for the Washington Nationals. The way they’re hitting the ball these days, they need him to be just about perfect.

The hard-throwing rookie suffered his first major league loss Thursday, despite another solid outing. He struck out nine to set another record, didn’t walk a batter and allowed only one run over six innings in a 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

“If we don’t score runs,” Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said, “it doesn’t matter who’s pitching.”

Strasburg (2-1) was bested by Brian Bannister (7-5), who allowed five hits and walked two in six sparkling innings as the Royals snapped a five-game losing streak. Robinson Tejeda got six outs and Joakim Soria finished for his 17th save.

“I don’t care if I ever face him again,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “We gave him his first loss, and I can tell my grandkids 10 years down the road.”

So, skipper, how did you beat him?

“I don’t want the league to beat up on him. We’ll just keep that to ourselves,” Yost said with a laugh.

Strasburg showed off his high heat in the high humidity of a sweaty summer afternoon, keeping his fastball in the high 90s despite the 93-degree temperature at first pitch. He got his 41st strikeout in his fourth major league start on the last batter he faced, freezing Scott Podsednik with an 83 mph curveball. That broke a record held by Herb Score, who fanned 40 in his first four major league starts for Cleveland in 1955.

And, for the third time in four starts, Strasburg never got to ball four on any batter. A stunning 75 of his 95 pitches were strikes.

The right-hander lowered his ERA to 1.78 but allowed nine hits, one fewer than in his first three starts combined. Most were scattered, but the Royals put three together to score with two out in the fifth. Jose Guillen, who reached three times and extended his hitting streak to 18 games, singled in David DeJesus.

“You’ve got to give them credit,” Strasburg said. “They weren’t going to give in. They wanted to put the ball in play. They hit it in the spots and just found holes.”

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