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MIA@WSH: Strasburg shuts down Marlins over seven

With all the hoopla surrounding Opening Day for the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg delivered a seven-inning performance that whets the appetite of Washington baseball fans hungry for what could be a full season of Strasburg's potential, one perhaps less encumbered by pitch and innings counts.

As he takes on his second assignment of the season, the question remains: When will Strasburg take his talents into the eighth inning of a game?

Whether that comes on Sunday remains to be seen. He'll have a tough assignment with the powerful Cincinnati Reds and right-hander Johnny Cueto opposing him, as the two National League powers play a rubber game at Great American Ball Park.

But after the way he threw in seven scoreless innings against the Marlins for openers, Strasburg certainly might have had a little more in the tank. But seven innings was his final innings tally, the seventh one of those in the right-hander's short and injury-interrupted career.

"Any other day, I would have gone further with him," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said after the opener, "but with the adrenaline going on Opening Day, he could have been a little spent. But he was outstanding.

"I didn't think he was tired, even at the end of the game. But during the first time out on Opening Day, he gave me seven solid innings, [and] I'm not pushing the envelope. I never have, I never will."

And it's safe to say the Reds have a good chance to make things difficult on Strasburg, anyway. After all, it was the Reds who put up a 15-spot on the board in Friday night's series opener before the Nationals rebounded for a wild 7-6 victory in 11 innings on Saturday.

The Reds will counter with their own Opening Day starter, who is also coming off a strong opening outing of the season. Cueto threw seven strong innings of his own, allowing just one run on three hits in a no-decision, as the game wound up being won by the Angels in 13 innings, 3-1. Cueto's nine strikeouts in that one marked the most by a Reds starter on Opening Day since Mario Soto had 10 in 1982.

Cueto is 4-2 with a 3.92 ERA against the Nationals in seven previous starts. It was in his only outing against the Reds that Strasburg claimed his final win of the 2010 season before going down that August with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

But it's been a long road since then for Strasburg, one that was halted before the regular season was complete in 2012 to ensure his health, and the Nationals entered the postseason without him. Strasburg finished last season with 159 1/3 innings pitched.

Reds: Frazier, Cozart double trouble

A day after making an interesting bit of Reds history, Todd Frazier had another strong day at the plate, with a 3-for-5 performance, while Zack Cozart had a single and a sacrifice bunt. But what they did on Friday was one for the books.

When Frazier and Cozart each hit two home runs on Friday, it marked the first time in Reds history their starting shortstop and third baseman had multiple-homer games in the same game. In fact, they were the first such tandem to do that in a National League game since the Pirates' Jackie Hernandez and Richie Hebner in 1971.

• The Reds wound up lighting up the strikeouts late in Saturday's game, adding a total of nine more on Saturday to give Reds pitchers 52 for the season. The old record for five games was 45, set in 1990 and matched in 2011.

Nationals: LaRoche's back ailing

• First baseman Adam LaRoche was held out of Saturday's game with a stiff back. He might not play on Sunday, either, to give the injury two more days of rest, including Monday's off-day.

LaRoche said the muscles are "knotted up" in his back after the cold weather. He said getting back is dependent upon how he can perform, not how he feels.

"As soon as I can swing freely, even if there is still some pain there, I'm fine with that," said LaRoche, who is off to an 0-for-13 start this season.

• With one RBI on Saturday, Jayson Werth is now just one shy of the 500 mark for his career.

Worth noting

Following Sunday's game, the Nationals will welcome the Chicago White Sox for their first Interleague series of the season, starting Tuesday. ... The Reds travel to St. Louis to meet their fierce NL Central rivals in the Cardinals' home opener on Monday. ... The Reds and Nationals won't have to wait long to meet again, as they are scheduled for an April 25-28 meeting in Washington. Comments