"I try [to] go out there and have total confidence every time out even when I'm getting lit up," Stephen Strasburg told reporters after he went eight innings for the third time this season in Wednesday's 4-2 loss at home to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. "That's just something I try to tell myself every time out, is, 'Go out there and pitch like you're the best pitcher on the planet.'"
He wasn't getting lit up tonight in Nationals Park and at some points Washington's '09 no.1 overall pick looked like he might be the best pitcher on the planet.
It wasn't enough. The Nats' 25-year-old right-hander went eight innings, striking out 12 and giving up just two hits, no walks and one run on a line drive home run to right by Pirates' third baseman Pedro Alvarez. It was actually, historically, as dominant a start in a loss as Elias Sports could find in the modern era of the game:
Stephen Strasburg is 1st NL pitcher in modern era (since 1900) w/ 8+ IP, 12+ K while allowing 2 or fewer hits and 0 walks in a loss. (Elias)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 25, 2013
Strasburg entered tonight's game with a (4-3) record and a 1.75 ERA in 10 starts at home this season, and he'd dominated the Pirates in three previous outings in his career, going (2-0) with 35 Ks (15.75 K/9) in 20 IP. He said afterwards that he felt everything was working for him tonight after he's struggled with his mechanics in previous outings this season, and he grew more confident in his stuff as the game went along, retiring 10 straight batters after Alvarez's home run and a one-out single by Travis Snider in the second and retiring 20 of the last 21 batters he faced with the only runner reaching on an error by Anthony Rendon in the fifth.
"It's kind of been a battle with mechanics all year," Strasburg said, "and for some reason it just clicks later on every time out. And I'm still waiting to kind of have the same kind of control I do late in the game from the first pitch on, but, you know, just made one bad pitch, he put a good swing on it and that was that."
In spite of the home run, which accounted for the only run he allowed, Strasburg said it's the type of start he'd like to put together every time out going forward and pitching late into games is the most important part.
"You want to be the big dog in the rotation, that comes with the territory," Strasburg said, "Six innings isn't cool anymore for me. I want to go seven, eight and hopefully nine some time."
Nationals' hitters failed to score with Strasburg on the mound once again, leaving him no.1 in the majors in lack of run support after tonight's game. The Pirates rallied for three runs on Drew Storen in the top of the ninth to take a 4-0 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Jayson Werth's two-run home run made those late runs hurt even more.
"I hate to waste the effort by [Strasburg]," Davey Johnson said. "I mean, that was a great effort. You can't hardly pitch any better than that." As Strasburg said, however, it's not about him personally, especially now with the Nationals fighting to keep hope alive this season. "I don't really care about the whole wins and losses as a pitcher," he told reporters. "I think we need to win some games and it's getting to the point where our back is against the wall and so we've got to do what it takes."
"I think it's, when things get tough," Strasburg continued, "your true colors really come out and it's all about what type of person you are? Are you the type that's going to sit there and look in the mirror and do everything you can to do better out there or are you going to start pointing fingers and I don't think there's a single guy in the clubhouse that's going to point fingers. Every single guy in here is responsible and we all want to win just as bad as any team out there."
They'll have to win tomorrow in the finale of the four-game set with the Pirates to avoid being swept in the second straight series on their 11-game homestand.
More from Federal Baseball:
- Game 101 WPA: Laz Diaz made a bad call and he should feel bad. Nats 2, Bucs 4
- Nationals Drop Sixth Straight, 4-2 To The Pirates: Strong Start By Stephen Strasburg Wasted
- Nationals' Wednesday Night Lineup: Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond Sit vs Pirates
- Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo On Clubhouse Chemistry, Potential Trades
- Nationals Drop Fifth Straight: Davey Johnson On Taylor Jordan And Anthony Rendon