PHOENIX -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg looked like two different pitchers against the D-backs at Chase Field on Tuesday night. One moment, he looked dominant. But, later on, he had a tough time figuring out Arizona, and that proved costly as the Nationals lost the game, 3-1.
The Nationals have lost four out of their last five games and dropped their record to 20-19.
The Nationals gave Strasburg a 1-0 lead against right-hander Bronson Arroyo in the second inning. Wilson Ramos led off with a single and then came on home on a triple by Ian Desmond, but the Nationals couldn't do anything else that inning. Danny Espinosa struck out and, after Tyler Moore reached base on a walk, Kevin Frandsen hit into a double play to end the threat.
"That was really big, especially not having any outs with a man on third and especially against a guy like Strasburg. You never know how much you're going to get," Arroyo said. "To get out of that is tough to do, but I got lucky with the strikeout and then kind of pitched around Moore to try and get the double-play ball."
As it turned out, the second inning was the only frame in which the Nationals would put a run on the board. Arroyo would go on to throw his first complete game of the season. He allowed the one run on seven hits.
"He knows how to pitch, he knows how to navigate a lineup," said Jayson Werth, who went 1-for-4. "He throws from different arm angles. He mixes his pitches, moves the ball in and out. He had a really good sinker going. It's the best sinker I've seen. He is not a guy that is going to overpower you. He is going to be smart, make you get yourself out, be crafty. He is a veteran guy that has been pitching a long time. He knows what he is doing."
The Nationals had one other chance to score at least one run against Arroyo in the fifth inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Strasburg hit a sacrifice to advance Frandsen to second base, but Moore was left stranded at third base. Moore was hoping that the ball would have bounced on the first-base side of the field, which would have given him a chance to score.
"Stras bunted. It could have been a little bit to the first baseman so we could have scored, but we had our opportunities. We just didn't capitalize this time," Moore said.
Denard Span was the next hitter and he struck out to end the threat.
During the first three innings, Strasburg blanked Arizona and allowed two hits, but then the D-backs figured him out by the fourth. Paul Goldschmidt scored the first run for Arizona on a single by Miguel Montero.
Ramos called for a changeup, but Strasburg threw a fastball. According to Ramos, Strasburg couldn't see the signs from Ramos very well. Ramos said next time he is going to put something on his fingernails in order for Strasburg too see the signs better.
"Today, it was hard for the pitchers to see the signs," Ramos said. "That's the reason I'll put the stickers on the fingers, so they can see the signs better."
The following inning, Arizona added two more runs. After Arroyo led off with a single and advanced to second on a single by Martin Prado, Goldschmidt doubled to right-center field, scoring Arroyo and Prado.
"Paul Goldschmidt gets paid to do what he did," manager Matt Williams said. "It was just a hanging curveball. It was a hanging curveball that Strasburg left up in the zone. It happens. Goldschmidt is a good hitter."
The moment the ball left his hands, Strasburg knew he made a mistake to Goldschmidt.
"It started to get a little windy and dry. I just spun it out of my hands. As soon as it came out, it probably wasn't going to be good," Strasburg said.
Strasburg would go on to pitch seven innings, allow the three runs on eight hits and strike out six batters.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.