Remember when Jordan Zimmermann threw that scoreless twelve-pitch, three strikeout inning in relief against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS last October? Remember when the normally reserved right-hander pumped his fist and let out an out-of-character howl as he walked off the mound in what was at that point a 1-1 game in the nation's capital? Stephen Strasburg had one of those moments Friday night in the Washington Nationals' 2-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.
The Nats' 24-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick was up to 92 pitches in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game after surrendering a two-out single by Josh Rutledge. Strasburg walked off the back of the mound and stretched like his back might be bothering him. Pitching coach Steve McCatty came out to talk on the mound. Strasburg stayed in the game, popped pinch hitter Tyler Colvin up with a 95 mph 2-0 fastball and then pumped his first and shouted something unprintable after Ryan Zimmerman made an over-the-shoulder basket catch in foul territory down the left field line for out no.3 and the end of the Rockies' half of the inning.
"He's fine," Nationals' manager Davey Johnson assured reporters after Strasburg's seven-inning effort against the Rockies. "In fact," Johnson continued, "he was real mad at [Steve McCatty] for running out there. I think Cat was a little worried. I didn't have him on a pitch count but Cat did. And when, I think he was at 92 pitches, and when [Strasburg] kind of stretched, [McCatty] was real worried, just like the mother hen that he is, but [Strasburg] was real kind of hacked off, he said, 'I can stretch, can't I?' And, I don't know, that's how competitive he is."
Strasburg and McCatty had an animated conversation in the dugout after the inning.
"Yeah a little bit," Johnson admitted, and he said Strasburg asked his pitching coach, "'What are you coming out there? I'm just stretching. I was fine.' But he calmed down, especially after we scored." Johnson said both he and McCatty were concerned it was a recurrence of Strasburg's lower back/lat issues, but once he finished the seventh inning, Strasburg was done for the night anyway. "That was going to be his last inning anyway," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper admitted, "[McCatty] had him basically on a 95-100 [pitch limit]. Wanted me to hold him there."
Strasburg ended up allowing just one run on five hits. He collected nine strikeouts. "He threw great," Johnson said, "I thought he threw great. I mean, his curveball was working. His changeup was working. And he had a really low pitch count. Really. And next time out he's the same situation, he can go further."
"Fastball and changeup worked really well tonight," Strasburg told MASN's Julie Alexandria. "Obviously, facing a good offense like them, really had to be on point from the first pitch on, so, kept the team close enough and then [Desmond] came up with the huge homer there in the seventh."
The Nationals have struggled to score runs in Strasburg's starts this season. Amongst qualified starters, Strasburg has the second-lowest average run-support per start at 2.50 RS, with only the Miami Marlins' Ricky Nolasco (2.38 RS) getting less offense in his outings than the Nationals' no.1 starter so far in 2013.
Strasburg allowed just one run Friday night, and he held the Rockies down long enough for Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to come through with Zimmerman's game-tying RBI double in the sixth and Desmond's go-ahead home run in the seventh, which gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead over Colorado in the second game of four in the long weekend series.
"We haven't scored him practically nothing," Davey Johnson said of the support Strasburg's received. "He hung around on the bench, rooting guys on, so it was a big win for him and for us."
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