There was a moment, early in the last night's game when Stephen Strasburg stretched his shoulders in a somewhat exaggerated shrug and looked momentarily uncomfortable on the mound in Nationals Park. Television cameras caught it and the Washington's skipper Matt Williams and his coaches saw the same thing, so they came out for a visit to make sure there was no issue with the 25-year-old right-hander.
"He was doing some funny things out there," Williams said after the game. "So I went out there and asked him and he got mad at me, so I left. So, he's fine."
"Every single guy kind of moves around a little bit," Strasburg explained when asked about the second inning visit to the mound by his manager and the Nats' trainer. "I yanked the ball a little bit... it happens. I definitely didn't think there was a need for them to come out there and check, but I understand they're doing their job."
Strasburg's anger at the time might also have centered around the fact that he misplayed what should have been out no.3, bobbling a weak grounder to the mound off Texas Rangers' outfielder Leonys Martin's bat and putting runners on first and third with two down. An RBI single by Rangers' second baseman Rougned Odor followed and the '09 no.1 overall pick was angry with himself for giving up the game's first run when he should have been out of the inning.
The opposing pitcher, Colby Lewis lined to left in the at bat that followed and the Nationals and Strasburg trailed 2-0 by the time he finished the Rangers off in the top of the second.
The rest of the start went well for Strasburg, who held the Rangers off the board for the rest of the time he was on the mound. Angry as he was when he arrived at the dugout after giving up the only two runs he allowed in the second, he settled down and recovered as the Nationals rallied to take a 3-2 lead on a three-run home run by Ian Desmond in the fourth before running away with what ended up being a 9-2 win.
"It's a trait that all pitchers need to have," Williams said of Strasburg's ability to deal with the adversity.
"It's never absolutely clean all the time. He was a little animated and upset when he came back to the dugout [in the second], but that's a good thing. It's a good thing for him to be not pleased with not catching a ball and giving up a couple runs. It's okay. That's just competing. That's a good thing."
"It was a good win for us," Strasburg said. "So I just wanted to go out there... had a little hiccup there in the second inning, but settled down after and Desi hit that big homer to give us the lead and we never looked back."
Strasburg allowed six hits total, two of them extra base hits, struck out nine and walked just one batter before he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the home-half of the sixth, having thrown 88 pitches overall.
"The balls that were hit were up in the zone," Williams said. "His changeup got a little up there in one inning, but other than that I think he pitched really good."
The Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick was pleased with the outing, which left him (4-4) on the year, with a 3.15 ERA, a 2.43 FIP, 19 walks (2.30 BB/9) and 90 Ks (10.90 K/9) after 12 starts and 74 1/3 IP.
"Curve ball was pretty good tonight," Strasburg said after facing and beating the Rangers for the first time in his career.
"Changeup was fairly effective. I think [Wilson Ramos] called a great game back there. I was kind of... coming in -- I faced [Alex] Rios maybe four years ago. Faced Choo last year for like two at bats. I think that was pretty much it. I didn't really know how I would necessarily attack them just based on the scouting report, but I just trusted [Ramos] and he did a good job."
In addition to working through the two-out error which led to the only runs scored by Texas, Strasburg reacted well when the Rangers tried to jump on his fastball early in the count as every team does now, trying to avoid falling behind the hard-throwing right-hander whose changeup and curve have becoming devastating wipeout pitches when he's ahead in the count.
"It's like any other team," he said. "They kind of all do the same thing, so I've just got to trust the pitch and just execute it and I think they'll get themselves out more times than not."
• We talked about Strasburg's outing, Ian Desmond's home run and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly following the Nationals' 9-2 win in Nationals Park: