WASHINGTON -- Manager Matt Williams had a feeling the Nationals' offense would turn around sooner or later. On Thursday, Washington went 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position in a 4-3 loss to the Padres. It was a different story Friday night, as the Nationals went 7-for-17 in the same category and pounded the Padres, 11-1, at Nationals Park.
The Nationals collected a season-high 17 hits and had three players -- Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Jose Lobaton with at least three hits, while Stephen Strasburg was spectacular, striking out 11 in seven shutout innings.
"We try to give ourselves opportunities as we can," Williams said. "I think Anthony and Desi definitely set the tone tonight, taking the ball the other way against the left-hander [Robbie Erlin]. Staying on it. That sets the tone for your team. They both did a nice job of that. … It's good. We just keep getting guys out there and see if we can get them in. The opportunities are key, though."
The Nationals went to work on Erlin in the first inning. With runners on first and second with two outs, Desmond doubled to right-center field, scoring Rendon. Bryce Harper followed with an infield single to drive in Adam LaRoche.
Two innings later, the Nationals had the bases loaded when Harper hit a three-run triple to right-center field. As he was diving into third base, Harper jammed his left thumb. Harper stayed in the game and later scored on a single by Lobaton.
"I think everybody swung the bat well tonight," Harper said. "I felt pretty good tonight. It was huge for Desi to come out. Lobaton is swinging great. Roche is doing the same thing. Everybody is swinging it well."
Harper went 2-for-2 with four RBIs in the game. Nate McLouth replaced Harper in left field in the fifth inning. It's not known if Harper will miss any games. He will be re-evaluated Saturday.
"I went in the dugout and swung in the cage. I felt fine. I hit some homers … in the cage," Harper said. "It was a 6-0 ballgame. I went out in the outfield and it swelled up a little bit. I thought we were in a good spot. Matt did, too. I went out and got some treatment on it. Put some ice in there. … We'll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there."
Washington would score two more in the sixth inning. Denard Span would score on a double by LaRoche and Jayson Werth would score on a groundout by Desmond.
Erlin allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings, and he said most of his pitches were up in the strike zone.
"Everything was elevated," Erlin said. "I got to 3-2 on Harper and shook to a fastball low and away. I threw it with full conviction, but it was right over the plate. At that point it's 5-0. That was a big one."
Strasburg took advantage of the run support. He allowed seven hits over the seven shutout innings and struck out 10 or more batters for the 14th time.
"Obviously, we had a long game yesterday. I needed to go out there," Strasburg said. "It's always great to go out there with the lead already. It's not always going to be the case. So you just can't really look at the scoreboard. Just keep pitching."
The only time Strasburg was in trouble occurred in the third inning. San Diego had the bases loaded with two outs, but Yonder Alonso flied out to Harper in left field.
"He had one inning where he was kind of wild," Lobaton said about Strasburg. "We talked. He calmed down and tried to hit the glove. He was working the corners. There were a lot of pitches where I didn't move the glove. If you see the replay, he was good. Curveballs and changeups were good."
The Nationals added two more runs off reliever Kevin Quackenbush in the seventh inning. Rendon doubled to right-center field and drove in Lobaton and Span. Rendon went 4-for-5 and is hitting .302 this season.
"We are a great team," Harper said. "We have a great lineup and we are missing Willie [Wilson Ramos] and Zim [Ryan Zimmerman]. I think where we are at right now swinging the bat, I think everybody just needs to keep it going. We'll keep going every day."
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.