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PIT@WSH: Strasburg fans 12, holds Pirates to one run

All it sometimes takes is one good series to turn a team in the right direction, and the Nationals were firing on all cylinders in their weekend series with the Mets.

The Nationals outscored the Mets, 20-3, in the final three legs of a four-game set, all Washington wins.

It's a long cry from the way they played in the early parts of last week, when they wasted an eight-inning beauty from Stephen Strasburg, who held the Pirates to one run on two hits while striking out 12 in a loss.

As the Nationals begin a series in Detroit on Tuesday, they're inching closer to .500 at 52-54. And they'll send their ace to the mound for the opener.

"[I] want to be the big dog in the rotation," Strasburg said. "That comes with the territory. The sixth inning isn't cool anymore for me. I want to go seven, eight and hopefully nine sometimes."

Strasburg is 5-8 this season, but he's posted a 2.85 ERA. His 1.07 WHIP and hits per nine innings (6.9) are each better numbers than he posted in his 15-6 season last year.

He has 13 quality starts and just five wins, but said that hasn't affected him.

"We want to win," he said. "I don't really care about the whole wins and losses as a pitcher. We need to win some games. It's getting to the point where our backs are against the wall, so we've got to do what it takes."

The Tigers will attack Strasburg with their high-powered offense that has scored more runs than any team in baseball and is surging with the return of Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera missed four games with a sore left hip flexor, though he said it was more of an abdominal issue. He showed no signs of injury in his return to the lineup Saturday, though, as he went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs. He struck out in his only Sunday at-bat, which saw him ejected after arguing two called strikes.

"If you miss a day in baseball, it kind of sets you back a little bit. Miggy missed four days, and he had no setback," teammate Torii Hunter marveled. "That's weird. This guy is unbelievable."

The Tigers will send Anibal Sanchez to the mound, looking to build on his already impressive season in which he's gone 8-7 with a 2.68 ERA and 119 strikeouts to 33 walks in 104 innings.

Nationals: Span heating up
Denard Span was brought in to be the leadoff hitter, but his .313 on-base percentage entering Sunday wasn't a number typically associated with top-of-the-order hitters.

So the Nats moved him to the seven-hole and Span responded. He prefers hitting lower in the order, and the numbers agree: Span had four more hits in the Nationals' 14-1 win and is 12-for-30 out of the seven spot.

"When he goes from the one-hole to the seven-hole, he becomes more aggressive," manager Davey Johnson said. "I like that."

Said Span: "Well, I'm hitting seventh, so I don't have to worry about going up there trying to see pitches. By the time I get up there, I've already seen six guys hit, so I already have a good idea of what that pitcher's doing. When I get up there, if they're going to throw me a first-pitch fastball, I'm going to swing. It's different when I'm leading off, I try to see as many pitches as possible, but hitting seventh, there's really no rules."

Tigers: Tuiasosopo getting it done
Matt Tuiasosopo was brought in on a Minor League contract this offseason, but he's impressed in limited action with the Tigers.

He's hit .308 in 104 at-bats while playing first base and outfield.

"It's a nice story really, because he really hadn't done much in the big leagues and really didn't get a whole lot of opportunities," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's one of those guys, it doesn't really happen very often, but he was one of those guys that actually opened our eyes up in Spring Training and earned a spot."

Worth noting
• Omar Infante took ground balls at second base in a workout Sunday morning, his first field work since suffering a setback to his sprained left ankle on a rehab assignment Thursday night. He's expected to be out another week or two.

• Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty, 59, was transported to a local hospital Sunday morning and was not present for the team's game against the Mets.

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