WASHINGTON — With Stephen Strasburg's dominating performance and Denard Span's return to the lineup, the Washington Nationals are feeling better about themselves.
Strasburg allowed a run in 7 1-3 innings and Span returned from the disabled list to spark a three-run fifth inning that helped Washington to a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
"No offense to anybody, but it was normal, more normal today," Nationals manager Matt Williams said.
Strasburg (1-1) struck out seven, walked two and allowed five hits in his best start of the season as the Nationals took three of four from the Phillies for their first series win.
The right-hander had allowed 11 runs — eight earned — in his previous two starts, but took a no-hitter into the fifth inning Sunday with improved offspeed pitches.
"I think it's just the command of my changeup and the feel for my changeup was much better," Strasburg said.
Added Williams: "That may be as good as I've seen him."
Span singled and scored from first on Ian Desmond's double, sparking a two-out rally against Phillies starter David Buchanan (0-3).
"I was out of breath," joked Span of the sprint, coming in his first game back following surgery in March to fix a core muscle. "But it felt good to just get on my horses like that."
Jayson Werth singled in another run and then scored on Ryan Zimmerman's bloop double off Buchanan, who allowed three runs and six hits, three walks and struck out four.
"I made some good pitches, just had some tough luck on some hits ... and that fly ball to Zimmerman, you just can't do anything about that," Buchanan said.
Drew Storen worked the ninth for his fourth save, sending the Phillies to their seventh loss in eight games.
Philadelphia has scored only 32 runs through 13 games, but most hitters would've struggled against Strasburg on Sunday.
He required only 21 pitches — 18 strikes — to make it through the first three innings.
"You want them to put the ball in play in four pitches or less, and they were doing that," Strasburg said.
Then in the fifth, he struck out Jeff Francoeur on a curveball and Ryan Howard on a changeup before Carlos Ruiz looped a single to left to end the no-hit bid.
The Nationals added a fourth run in the seventh on Zimmerman's single. Strasburg was chased in the eighth after Odubel Herrera doubled and scored.
Phillies: OF Domonic Brown (left Achilles tendinitis) is 0 for 8 in two games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley after beginning his rehab assignment with Class A Clearwater. Brown started in right and batted third Sunday, going 0 for 4 with a walk and a run scored.
Nationals: IF Yunel Escobar (groin strain) was out of the starting lineup for a second day after leaving Friday night's game early. ... Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said 3B Anthony Rendon (left MCL sprain) and RHP Casey Janssen (right shoulder tendinitis) are progressing in their rehabs, but did not provide a timetable for either player's return.
With Escobar out, Nationals IF Danny Espinosa made a pair of fine plays in his second career start at third base. First he charged a bunt by Cesar Hernandez and threw him out by half a step in the third. Then made an over-the-shoulder sliding grab of Freddy Galvis' foul pop-up in the fourth.
HOWARD MOVES UP IN LINEUP
Manager Ryne Sandberg moved Phillies 1B Ryan Howard up to the fifth spot in the order Sunday after dropping him to seventh in the first three games of the series. In the series, Howard went 3 for 13 with an RBI to raise his average to .175.
Phillies: RHP Jerome Williams (0-1, 4.09) starts as Philadelphia begins a six-game homestand Tuesday with the first of three against the Miami Marlins.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 5.11) looks to continue his success against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first of a three-game series Tuesday. Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against St. Louis.