Stephen Strasburg left last night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies after six innings of work on the mound in Citizens Bank Park in which he threw 100 pitches and struck out ten. Washington's 25-year-old starter had a couple 21-pitch innings early in his 27th start of 2013, and the Nationals' right-hander struggled with his command on a hot, humid night in the City of Brotherly Love.
"Strasburg pitched a good game except the balls were slippery or his hand was sweaty," Davey Johnson told reporters afterwards, "and I think he was getting a little tired after six. I still would have gone further with him, but he was kind of spent from all the moisture on the ball and he couldn't control it, so."
Asked if he thought he could have gone further, the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick said his manager probably read the situation correctly. "I think with the way the game was going," Strasburg explained, "I didn't really have many quick innings or anything, so I definitely was feeling it there at the end." When Strasburg left the mound after six, the game was still tied at 1-1. It stayed that way through seven with a more efficient Cole Hamels holding the Nationals to just one run on two hits and striking out eight on 87 pitches.
The Nationals went ahead in the eighth, however, when Phillies' skipper Ryne Sandberg went to his pen. Philly right-hander Justin De Fratus gave up a one-out single by Anthony Rendon and a walk to Chad Tracy before he was lifted in favor of left-hander Cesar Jimenez, who walked Bryce Harper and gave up a bases-loaded sac fly by Scott Hairston that put the Nationals ahead 2-1.
Tyler Clippard retired the first two batters in the bottom of the eighth, but a two-out walk to Cesar Hernandez brought Jimmy Rollins up and the veteran infielder doubled to center in CBP to bring in the tying run before scoring the eventual winning run himself on an RBI single by Carlos Ruiz.
"That was a tough one," Davey Johnson said after the game.
"The big mistake [Clippard] made was walking Hernandez," the Nationals' manager continued, "I mean, he was ahead of him and didn't throw the ball over and Jimmy [Rollins] has been know to have a few big hits and that was a big one. But, that was a tough one, no doubt about it. That one hurt."
"I think any loss throughout the year is tough," Strasburg told reporters after the game. "We want to go out there and win as many games as we can. But there's no point in giving up now. We've still got a lot to work on and a lot to get better at, and let's just keep working hard and try to be playing our best ball at the end of the year and see where we're at."
The loss, on a night that the Nationals got a strong start from Strasburg but little in the way of offense once again, left the defending NL East Champs 69-68 overall and 7.5 games out in the race for the second Wild Card spot with 25 games left on the schedule in 2013.
"It's tough," Johnson said of the third loss in the Nats' last four games. "It's a stab in the heart. We've got to win these games. I mean, we had opportunities, we didn't capitalize on them. We had the right guys up there. We could have broken the game open when Hairston was hitting, just, we're not getting it done. I mean, four hits on each side. That's not much."
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