"[Strasburg], you know, he held us in there," Davey Johnson told reporters after the Washington Nationals' 7-1 loss to Matt Harvey and the New York Mets on Friday night in New York's Citi Field. "He was just missing all night," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper continued, "pitching behind hitters all night, threw a lot of pitches. But we had our chances."
The Nats connected for just four hits and scored just one run in seven innings against 24-year-old Mets' right-hander Matt Harvey, who improved to (4-0) with a 0.93 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 9 BB (2.79 BB/9), 32 Ks (9.93 K/9) in four starts and 29.0 IP so far in 2013. In Harvey's final inning of work, with New York up 4-1 on a wild pitch with a runner on third and an RBI single in the first and home runs by Ike Davis and Lucas Duda in the sixth, Washington loaded the bases with no one out, but three straight batters went down to the Mets' starter and the Nats' best opportunity of the night was wasted.
"I was happy that I was able to battle and keep the team in the ballgame as long as I could," Strasburg told reporters after his fourth start ended in a loss, "and then they just put some good swings on the ball in the sixth."
The Mets scored all the runs they would need to support Harvey in the home-half of the first when Jordany Valdespin reached base on Ian Desmond's sixth error of the season and scored from third two batters later after a single by Daniel Murphy and a wild pitch with David Wright at the plate. A two-out RBI line drive by John Buck later that inning brought Murphy around and it was 2-0 New York after the bottom of the first.
Asked about the error after the game, which was Desmond's sixth and the Nats' major-league leading 15th as a team, Johnson said the Nationals' shortstop had to come at the ball because of the speed of Valdespin and got, "... a little short-hop and didn't come up with it," but the Nats' manager said he still believed he had a good defensive team. "I like our defense," Johnson said, "It's just that we haven't made the plays and we haven't pitched good behind errors."
As for Harvey, Davey Johnson was impressed with what he saw from the Mets' starter. "He threw the ball good," Johnson said, "He's a good young pitcher. I was impressed. I thought he had a lot of things working good for him and made a lot of quality pitches, but we had our chance and we didn't capitalize on it."
Asked about his own efforts on the mound, Strasburg, who has a 2.96 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 7 walks (2.59 BB/9), 21 Ks (7.77 K/9) after going six innings tonight and allowing five hits, four runs, two earned, and two walks while strike out six on 111 pitches, 64 of them strikes, Strasburg said it simply wasn't enough. "Not good enough," he told reporters, "It's tough, you want to go out there and feel great every time, and it was kind of a struggle again. So, it's still early and I've just got to keep battling and keep working hard and I know it's going to come."
It's still early in his career too, as the Nationals' manager explained before tonight's game when he was asked about his 24-year-old right-hander meeting the Mets' righty. "Look," Davey Johnson explained, "Strasburg is so driven to be as good he can be, it doesn't matter who he's pitching against or who you're comparing him to, he always is a perfectionist on the mound. That's just him. He's still in the learning stages of seeing how the strike zone -- how hitters react to his stuff. And he hasn't really had a full year in the big leagues yet, and so he's just getting his feet on the ground and I like where he's at, but the best is yet to come."
After another start that saw him struggle with his command early then settle in and pitch effectively, if not up to the standard he's set early in his career, Strasburg said it's just a matter of getting more comfortable with his command from the start. "I think the biggest thing is that I'm not having good enough feel early on to go out there and just let it eat," the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick explained, "and get through some quick innings to get deeper into [the] ballgame. That seems to be the case the last few starts. Going out there, just not throwing enough strikes early and it's kind of shooting myself in the foot."