Unbeaten Strasburg, Nats down Marlins in doubleheader opener

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WASHINGTON (AP) Stephen Strasburg remained undefeated and struck out seven over six innings in his first start since signing a long-term contract and the Washington Nationals defeated the Miami Marlins 6-4 in the opener of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader.

Strasburg (6-0) allowed three runs and five hits for his second victory over the Marlins this season. The right-hander agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal Tuesday.

Washington has won three in a row, including two straight to open the four-game series with Miami.

Jayson Werth‘s RBI single capped a three-run first inning for Washington off Justin Nicolino (2-1). Wilson Ramos hit a solo home run in the sixth as five Nationals drove in at least one run.

Christian Yelich homered and drove in two runs for Miami, which has lost five of seven.

Jonathan Papelbon, one of three relievers backing up Strasburg, pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

Though not sharp, Strasburg never surrendered the early lead despite the Marlins’ peskiness. He matched his season-high with three walks and allowed at least one base runner in every inning.

Nicolino allowed four runs on five hits with five walks – including the first three batters faced – in 4 2/3 innings.

Staked to a 1-0 lead on Yelich’s homer, Nicolino’s inability to find the strike zone cost him immediately.

After he walked Bryce Harper to load the bases, sacrifice flies by Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman drove in runs. Harper stole third base and scored on Werth’s single for a 3-1 lead.

Miami scored single runs in the fifth and sixth only for Washington to counter in the bottom of both innings as rain fell, eventually turning the infield muddy.

Yelich homered center field wall in the first inning and then peppered the left field wall for an RBI double in the fifth.

Michael Taylor reached base four times with a double, single and two walks for the Nationals. He also scored twice and stole a base.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: Washington rested outfielder Ben Revere for the opening game with Taylor starting in center. … Outfielder Matt den Dekker was added from Triple-A Syracuse as the 26th man for the doubleheader. He pinch-hit in the eighth, reached on an error and scored on Taylor’s double.

UP NEXT

Miami RHP Kendry Flores was scheduled to make his 2016 debut in the second game of the doubleheader. Flores, called up Saturday from Triple-A New Orleans as the Marlins’ 26th player, posted a 4.97 ERA in seven games with Miami in 2015. RHP Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.03) starts for Washington.

Robinson Canó benched for lack of hustle

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Mets second baseman Robinson Canó is not in the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the division rival Nationals. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, it’s punishment for failing to run hard on a pair of double plays over the weekend against the Marlins.

Manager Mickey Callaway said, “He understands that it’s unacceptable to not run balls out. He understands that he needs to do that at all times.”

Canó first gaffe came in the top of the seventh inning on Friday, with his team trailing 7-3. Facing Adam Conley, Canó hit a grounder back to the pitcher, who turned a 1-6-3 double play. Canó was only halfway up the first base line when the throw got to first base.

In the fourth inning on Sunday, with the game still scoreless, Canó tapped a Sandy Alcantara pitch in the dirt. Thinking it was foul, Canó didn’t run, but catcher Chad Wallach charged and grabbed the ball while it was still in fair territory. He threw to second base for the force out and then the ball was easily whipped to first base to complete the double play as Canó still thought it was foul.

This likely wouldn’t be as big a deal as it currently is if Canó were actually producing at the plate and if the Mets weren’t in a freefall. Canó has a .245/.293/.374 batting line on the season. Meanwhile, the Mets are 20-25 and riding a five-game losing streak which includes having been shut out in each of their last two games.