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WSH@NYM: Strasburg stifles the Mets with nine K's

Even with Sunday's series-closing loss to the Reds, the Nationals (7-3) are still off to the franchise's best 10-game start since 1996 as they prepare to open a four-game set with the Astros on Monday night at Nationals Park.

If staff ace Stephen Strasburg can lead the Nats to win No. 8 in the series opener, it will become the franchise's highest win total through 11 games since the 1981 Expos posted a 9-2 mark in that span. The Astros, on the other hand, have already won more games in their first nine (four) this season than they did in the last two seasons combined during that stretch (three).

Coming off a 106-loss season a year ago, the Astros know that building off their best start since 2006 won't be easy, especially against Strasburg. Through his first two starts this season, Strasburg has allowed just one run off seven hits over 13 innings, striking out 14 and walking four.

"The stuff he's got, he's always challenging to face," Astros catcher Jason Castro said. "He's one of the best pitchers in baseball, stuff-wise, so it's always a challenge for us as hitters, and we have to come in with a game plan and make sure we stick to that plan and try to dictate the at-bats as much as we can offensively, and be smart with our at-bats."

As for Strasburg's counterpart, right-hander Kyle Weiland will look to avenge his rocky Astros debut last Tuesday. The 25-year-old allowed four runs on eight hits over five innings of work and remained winless over his six career starts, the first five of which came with the Red Sox last year.

Astros: Martinez continues hot start
J.D. Martinez roped a pair of doubles on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to nine games to open the season. Martinez is the only Astros player to record a hit in each of the first nine contests.

After hitting .274 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 53 games in his debut season a year ago, Martinez is hitting .371 (13-for-35) with three homers and 10 RBIs through his first nine games this season.

Nationals: Ankiel records first hit
Making his second start of the season Sunday, center fielder Rick Ankiel notched a leadoff double in the seventh inning, then scored the game-tying run from second on an Ian Desmond single in the Nationals' eventual 8-5 loss.

Overall, Ankiel -- who started the season on the disabled list with a strained left quad -- went 1-for-8 in his two starts against the Reds this weekend. The 32-year-old hit .239 with nine home runs in 122 games last season.

Worth noting
• The Nationals' 1.99 team ERA through their first 10 games is the best in franchise history, edging out the previous mark of 2.15 set by the 1982 Expos.

• The Astros and Nationals have tied six of their last 10 season series, including each of the last three. Since 2002, the teams are an even 33-33 against each other. Comments