BOSTON (AP) - Boston manager Bobby Valentine marveled at the way two of baseball's budding superstars led the Washington Nationals to a 7-4 win over the Red Sox.
Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 and rookie Bryce Harper had three hits, including a two-run homer. But Valentine was just as impressed with how the Red Sox continued to push, even after the Nationals made some great defensive plays and got a call that Valentine was still disputing after the game.
``This is a good offensive performance by our team. We came up short but this is a battling performance,' Valentine said. ``We're in the ninth inning, we had a couple runs taken away from us and we're still battling at the end there. There was no letdown. Guys didn't get discouraged. I thought there was one good at-bat after another.'
Valentine thought it should have been closer, though.
Trailing 7-2 in the sixth inning, Boston loaded the bases with only one out, but Strasburg struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and then finished his night by catching Kevin Youkilis looking at a 96-mph fastball.
Youkilis erupted after the call and was ejected by plate umpire Doug Eddings.
Valentine said the pitch ``was not a strike.'
``Youk gave him a heck of an at-bat, gets called out and the inning's over. But I think that inning should have continued,' Valentine said. ``Who knows? We might have tacked on three more, four more earned runs on this thing.'
Harper hit a two-run shot in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth as the franchise improved to 1-9 at Fenway Park. The Montreal Expos dropped all six of their games at Boston's longtime home before moving to Washington.
Strasburg (7-1) threw a career-high 119 pitches, including 33 in his final inning when he worked out of that bases-loaded jam. He finished one strikeout shy of his career high of 14, set on June 8, 2010 - exactly two years ago to the day Friday - against Pittsburgh in his major league debut.
Strasburg struck out five straight and seven of eight during a stretch from the third inning to the fifth. He gave up two runs and four hits while improving to 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA in his last four starts.
``His split-changeup was a real devastating pitch. We hadn't seen that out of his hand before, and his fastball was alive all night long,' Valentine said. ``He's special. He's a very good pitcher, obviously.'
Boston starter Felix Doubront (6-3) was even better than Strasburg early on, striking out four in the first two innings, but the Nationals got to him for three runs in the third on three hits and a pair of walks. They added three more in the fourth, including a pair on Harper's drive to straightaway center, while building a 6-2 lead.
Doubront lasted just four innings and was charged with six runs and eight hits, five of them doubles.
Adrian Gonzalez hit his 200th career homer, a solo shot off Ross Detwiler in the eighth, and Daniel Nava delivered an RBI double in the ninth against Brad Lidge to get Boston within three. Washington then brought in Tyler Clippard, who got two outs for his sixth save in seven chances.
Strasburg faltered a bit in the second when he walked David Ortiz to start the inning, Ryan Sweeney hit a two-out single and Mike Aviles doubled off the Green Monster to drive in both runners.
The lead was short-lived.
After striking out in his first at-bat, Harper showed why he's among the early leaders for rookie of the year when he hit a line drive to center in the third that he stretched into a double.
Danny Espinosa, who was aboard after a leadoff walk, moved to third on Harper's play and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's single. Ian Desmond doubled to right-center to put Washington up 3-2.
Espinosa doubled in Tyler Moore in the fourth and scored on Harper's sixth homer.
Dustin Pedroia singled with one out in the sixth for Boston's first hit since the second inning, snapping an 0-for-14 slump and getting a loud cheer from Fenway fans who had watched Strasburg strike out batter after batter.
The Red Sox then caught up to Strasburg for a stretch. Gonzalez followed Pedroia with a double off the Green Monster and Ortiz walked to load the bases with one out. But the right-hander responded with the two Ks to end the inning,
NOTES: Strasburg also struck out 13 in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh on May 10. ... Friday's game was the first of 15 straight Washington will play against teams from the American League East, meeting every team three times. ... Boston pitching coach Bob McClure was attending to a family matter and not with the team.
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