The Washington Nationals got about what you'd expect from Stephen Strasburg this afternoon in the series finale with the Cleveland Indians in Progressive Field. The 24-year-old right-hander had thrown only a simulated game between this afternoon's outing and his last start on May 31st in Atlanta when a strained lat muscle forced him from the game and landed him on the DL. The Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick walked four, but gave up just one hit and one earned run in 5.0 innings of work against the Indians today in which he threw 82 pitches, 44 of them for strikes.
"He was a little rusty," Davey Johnson told reporters after today's 2-0 loss. "He didn't have his command. I thought he had good stuff, but he just didn't have his command. Threw a lot of pitches in five innings. Actually, we wanted to hold him around 75-80 [pitches], and he used every bit of it." The one run Strasburg allowed came around after the third of the four walks he issued in the series finale in Ohio. Jason Kipnis walked for the second time today with one down in the fourth, stole second, mostly on Strasburg, but a bad throw by Jhonatan Solano allowed Kipnis to take third and Carlos Santana then went down to get a low 98 mph 2-2 heater that the Indians' catcher sent back up the middle for an RBI single, 1-0 lead and Cleveland's first hit.
The Nationals had opportunities. Anthony Rendon doubled with one out in the first, but was stranded at second two outs later. A Jayson Werth single in the second was followed by a DP grounder off Ian Desmond's bat. Rendon singled for the second time today in the top of the fourth (and collected his 4th hit in 4 ABs going back to Saturday night) and Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error in the next at bat which put runners on second and third with no one out. Adam LaRoche, Werth and Desmond all followed with strikeouts which left Rendon and Zimmerman on base in what was then a 0-0 game.
With the Indians up 1-0, the Nationals got a leadoff single from Denard Span, who advanced to second on another error by the home team. Anthony Rendon singled in the next at bat, but Span only got to third on the hit, an opposite field line drive to right, in spite of the fact that Indians' right fielder Drew Stubbs misplayed it. The Nats' skipper said it was because Span's right foot was barking after he fouled a pitch off it earlier in the inning. With Rendon on first and Span on third, Zimmerman struck out and Adam LaRoche grounded an inning-ending 4-6-3.
Jayson Werth doubled to start the seventh and a HBP on Ian Desmond followed in the next at bat. Steve Lombardozzi tried to bunt the runners over, popped it up, but still reached first safely and advanced the runners when Indians' starter Corey Kluber dove for the ball and missed.
Lombardozzi then got doubled off first though, when Jhonatan Solano lined out to Indians' first baseman Mark Reynolds and a Roger Bernadina groundout stranded the two runners who were left on base after the double play.
Davey Johnson said he was surprised Lombardozzi got doubled up.
"That was shocking," the manager said, "and with the bobble in right field, Denard could have scored."
"I think he shut it down because he was limping," Johnson explained, "but just all a bunch of little things that hurt." The Nationals had 11 runners in scoring positiion and got two hits w/ RISP, but didn't manage to drive in any runs in the 2-0 loss which dropped them back to .500 at 34-34 overall.
"We had the right guys up there," the Nats' 70-year-old manager said, "We just didn't get the job done. And you know... played it real conservative trying to get a run in the seventh inning and we made some baserunning mistakes, it was just a frustrating day all around."
"When we had runners on third with less than two outs," Johnson continued, "we just didn't score. That's what's frustrating. We've got to be able to that. If we're going to do anything this year, we've got to be able to do that." Asked what they could do to improve, the manager said simply, "Just bow our necks and get better. That's all."
The Nationals start a three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies in Nationals Park North on Monday night.
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