Stephen Strasburg struggled with his fastball command in a May 26th start against the Atlanta Braves the last time the Washington Nationals passed through Turner Field. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up a two-run HR by arch nemesis Dan Uggla in the bottom of the fifth inning of that game that tied it at 4-4, but the Nats' bats picked the starter up and scored what ended up being the winning runs in the top of the sixth, so Strasburg was still the pitcher of record in what ended up an 8-4 game and he earned his fifth win of the season that afternoon in spite of the fact that he gave up six hits, four walks and four runs in just 5.0 IP over which he threw 95 pitches, 51 of them strikes. "Wasn't his day I guess," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "He's usually picking us up, but we picked him up today."
Strasburg met the Braves again in his next outing, holding Atlanta to four hits over 7.0 IP in a 2-0 win in Nationals Park on June 2nd in a start in which he struck out nine without allowing a walk. The Nats' manager and the 41,042 fans in attendance in the nation's capital that day walked away once again impressed by what they saw from the '09 no.1 overall pick. "Today was impressive," Johnson explained, "because he had an outstanding changeup, and the curve ball, [he] was getting that over too, and he was spotting his fastball and adding and subtracting on it. It was real impressive."
The outing against the Braves was the start of a month of June in which the third-year starter has posted a 2.53 ERA, 1.53 FIP, six walks (1.69 BB/9) and 48 K's (13.50 K/9) in 32.0 IP. Entering play today Strasburg has the second-highest total K's in the majors with 118 to Detroit's Justin Verlander's 121. The Nats' right-hander has the highest K/9 on the season, however, with 11.80 K/9, the lowest FIP (2.21 to Zack Greinke's 2.22) and the second-highest WAR in baseball (tied with the White Sox' Chris Sale at +3.2 fWAR behind Greinke and Verlander's +3.6). In four career starts against Atlanta, Strasburg's (2-2) with 6 BB (2.42 BB/9), 25 K's (10.07 K/9), a 3.63 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a .256 BAA in 22.1 IP vs the Braves. He's (1-1) with a 5.56 ERA in two starts and 11.1 IP in Turner Field.
Strasburg takes the mound for the 16th time in 2012 this afternoon looking for his 10th win of the season. Here's the lineup Davey Johnson's sending out behind the right-hander:
Davey's Lineup-Sat. @ ATL/G76: Espinosa 2b, Harper cf, Zimmerman 3b, Morse rf, LaRoche 1b, Desmond ss, Moore lf, Flores c, Strasburg rhp.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) June 30, 2012
• Game time 4:05 live from Turner Field in Atlanta. Who's Watching The Nationals?