Stephen Strasburg, who turned 24 today, described his last start, a six-shutout-inning, 105-pitch outing against the Miami Marlins in which he gave up six hits and one walk while striking out seven as, "... one of those days where you get through them." The Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick said, "The bottom line is that it's not going to be every day where they're just hitting balls right to guys or hitting little flares where guys aren't. So, it's just baseball and that's one thing that you can't control, so you've just got to do your best to just keep the team in the ballgame." While Strasburg didn't seem to think it was all that impressive an outing, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson liked what he saw from the right-hander.
"I have to say," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "That was one of the more impressive games that [Strasburg's] pitched. I thought he used his fastball better. I thought his location was a little better. He spiked a few changeups and he got in three jams he had to work out of, but that's the kind of Strasburg that I've grown to love."
Strasburg retired the Marlins in order in the first on 13 pitches, 10 of them fastballs. A leadoff single, one-out single and wild pitch in the second put runners on second and third before Strasburg struck John Buck out with a 2-2 change to end his second scoreless frame.
Three singles in the third loaded the bases with one down, but Strasburg got Logan Morrison looking with a 96 mph 1-2 four-seamer. Only a slick play by Ryan Zimmerman on a sharp grounder to third by Hanley Ramirez got the Nats' starter out of that jam. Emilio Bonifacio doubled with one down in the Marlins' fourth, and might have scored on a line drive to center had Roger Bernadina not tracked it down, making a diving catch for out no.2. Strasburg retired the opposing pitcher to strand Bonifacio at second and keep the game scoreless through four.
With two runners on in the fifth, it was Bernadina again with a sliding catch in short-center that held the runners in place at first and second. Another wild pitch by Strasburg moved both runners into scoring position, but Strasburg struck Hanley Ramirez out with a 2-2 bender to end his fifth scoreless frame a half-inning after the Nats gave him a 2-0 lead. The Nationals added two more runs in the top of the sixth, after which Strasburg came back out and retired the Marlins in order in his final inning of work, getting a sharp line drive to short, a fly to left and a backwards K, when John Buck took a 96 mph four-seam fastball for a called strike three on the 105th pitch Strasburg threw.
"They kept on getting hits out there," Strasburg told MASN's Kristina Akra immediately after the game, "So that's something that I can't control, just got to keep trying to pound the zone, and we played some great defense today and really got me off the hook."
"He used his fastball more than [he] relied on offspeed stuff and tricking hitters," Davey Johnson said, "And he went right after them with his fastball and he made better pitches when he got in a jam. Made great pitches and location, but everything was off the fastball."
Johnson told reporters that he'd gone into the clubhouse after the game to congratulate his pitcher on what he said he thought was an, "outstanding" start. "At the end," Johnson said, "[Strasburg] was actually even throwing better. He was locating better, everything was just much easier at the end. So it was very impressive for me."
Asked what his manager had said to him during the post game conversation, Strasburg said the Nats' skipper, "... just reiterated that the way I was pitching today is kind of something that he saw in 2008, in Beijing, and I think it's just one thing that I've got to stick with and keep working on and trying to get better with it, because I think once you establish your fastball command it makes the game a lot easier."
"When he does that," Johnson said, "It's just going to be... his pitch count will be down more. Even though he had, like I said, those two or three rough jams, he pitched out of them by making pitches, basically with his fastball."
Strasburg faces the Atlanta Braves tonight in Nationals Park. It will be his fourth start against the Nats' NL East rivals this season. Through three starts, the right-hander is (2-1) with a 4.20 ERA, eight walks and 19 K's in 15.0 innings.