Rockies' outfielder Tyler Colvin played in just three of four games during the Washington Nationals' recent trip to Colorado, going 7 for 13 with a double, triple and a home run, but he sat out Stephen Strasburg's start in Coors Field. Last night in Nats Park, the 26-year-old former Chicago Cubs' prospect (taken 13th overall in 2006) was at it again, going 3 for 4 with two home runs off Strasburg, and becoming the first player to hit two in one game off the right-hander in the Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick's three-year MLB career. The two pitches Colvin crushed are two pitches Strasburg and his manager said after the game were the difference in the Rockies' 5-1 win, which snapped the Nationals' four-game winning streak and handed Strasburg his third-straight loss.
"I thought he threw the ball well," Davey Johnson said after the game, "He made two mistakes to [Tyler] Colvin. Got him two strikes that first time up and he was trying to throw the ball up and in, and he just left it out right over the middle of the plate and [Colvin] crushed it."
The first at bat against Colvin started with Jesus Flores dropping a catchable pop behind the plate. The Nats' backstop was charged with an error on what should have been the second out of the inning. Strasburg got Colvin to chase a change that bounced as it crossed the plate and got up 0-2 but then threw the Rockies' outfielder a fastball that was up and in and ended up in the second deck in right, high above the Nationals' bullpen...
"Dumb pitch," Strasburg said after the game, while recounting the sequence of pitches in that at bat, "I spiked a changeup and he swung at it. And when you've got a guy with some power up there, that's the last thing you want to do is try [to] throw an elevated fastball and [it] missed down in the zone a little bit and right into his swing plane. So, you just [have] to learn from it."
"He didn't want to throw that pitch, the first one," Davey Johnson told reporters, "He was kind of [wanting] to do something else, and he went along with it and he was halfway through the thing and didn't want to throw it where he was supposed to throw it. That's just a little inexperience." The result was Colvin's 12th HR of the year and a 1-0 Rockies' lead early in the game.
It was still 1-0 when Colvin came up with a runner on in the fourth after Strasburg had issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Gonzalez. Strasburg got a weak groundout to third from Michael Cuddyer for the first out of the inning, and got up 1-2 on Colvin in the outfielder's second at bat of the game. Colvin took a change for a ball, and fouled off another one before Strasburg "missed" low and away with a pitch home plate ump Jim Joyce said was outside. Colvin spoiled a full-count change, fouling it off, and fouled off a two-seamer too on the eighth pitch of the at bat. Pitch no. 9 was another change, belt-high and outside, but it was the fifth Colvin had seen in that AB, and he was on it, reaching out to make contact and send it soaring out to right, just over the out-of-town scoreboard for a two-run blast and a 3-0 Rockies' lead.
"He got the changeup up and out over the plate and [Colvin] got a hold of that," Davey Johnson explained, "Just two mistakes."
"With a free base open I didn't want to walk him," Strasburg told reporters, "and I just caught too much of the plate and the way the ball's been flying out here he got it just well enough to get [it] over the wall." Of the sixth other hits the Rockies collected while Strasburg was on the mound, five of them were singles with Carlos Gonzalez's double the only other extra base hit the Nats' right-hander surrendered. "All it is is just executing pitches," Strasburg said of the two mistakes he made to Colvin that he thought cost him the game, "If you throw a mistake he's going to hit it just like any other guy in the league and just for some reason we've been making more mistake pitches to [Colvin] than the other guys."
Hinting at what his manager said about him not necessarily being committed to the pitches he threw that were launched, Strasburg said that he thought it would be an easy problem to deal with when he talked to his pitching coach about the start. "I just need to talk to [Steve McCatty] tomorrow and really try [to] learn as much as I can from this," the 23-year-old right-hander said, "And all I can really think of is two pitches and I don't think they were the right pitches to throw in that situation and I didn't have the right mind set so it should be an easy fix."
How long Strasburg will have to wait to get a chance to stop his three-game losing streak will be determined by what he does in next week's All-Star Game, but his manager said he knew Strasburg would be determined to get back on the mound and turn things around. "He's going to be chomping at the bit to come back after the All-Star Break," the Nats' skipper said, "I know he was feeling a little bad that he got that heat stroke [in Atlanta], felt like he let us down, but he'll be fine."
Strasburg laughed when asked about going into the break with three-straight losses. He didn't seem to think it was funny though. "It's not a good feeling, but what can you do," the Nationals' starter said, "You can only go out there and give it everything you have and try to keep the team in the ballgame, but sometimes it's not going to work out." Most of the time it has for Strasburg this season. He enters the All-Star break with a (9-4) record in 17 starts, a 2.82 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 28 walks (2.55 BB/9) and 128 K's (11.64 K/9) in 99.0 IP.