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Stephen Strasburg, Nationals roll over Pirates, 6-1

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg presumably wasn’t going to over-exert himself in his final start before the playoffs. The Pirates made sure he didn’t have to, though, getting just two hits off Strasburg as he pitched into the eighth inning and four hits all night in a 6-1 loss to the Nationals on Friday night.

Gerrit Cole struck out seven and walked one in a good outing bookended by rough innings.

The Nationals got four sharp hits in the first, but just one run, thanks to a double play and Daniel Murphy getting thrown out at home as the trailing runner on Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double.

Cole settled down until the sixth, when three Washington singles pushed another run across for a 2-0 lead. A.J. Schugel came on and didn’t retire a batter. Anthony Rendon got caught stealing, then Zimmerman clubbed a two-run homer to center. Two more reached before Johnny Barbato came on to get the third out of the sixth.

The Pirates didn’t get a baserunner until Gregory Polanco’s single with two outs in the fifth. Strasburg’s 98 pitches carried him through 7 2-3 innings. He struck out eight and walked two.

Strasburg needed just three pitches in the sixth, and one of them hit a guy. He plunked leadoff man Sean Rodriguez with the first pitch, Cole popped up a bunt on the first offering he saw, then Adam Frazier bounced into a double play on the next pitch.

Walks by Polanco and John Jaso put two on with two out in the eighth, and Strasburg was lifted for old pal Oliver Perez, who immediately got a groundout.

The Nats broke things open in the bottom of the eighth, as Zimmerman and Jayson Werth smacked back-to-back homers off Dan Runzler.

The Pirates got on the board when Andrew McCutchen doubled off the center-field wall to score Starling Marte in the ninth. Marte finished 2-for-4.

Fret not. The Pirates did no damage to their draft position, while the Nationals got a couple good signs — Strasburg’s strong, easy outing and Werth’s homer — going into their Division Series showdown with the Cubs.