Nationals 7-1 over Rockies: Stephen Strasburg dominates Colorado in Nats Park

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Hard to judge Stephen Strasburg's success against a depleted Colorado Rockies' roster, but the Washington Nationals' right-hander was dominant on the hill in the Nats' 7-1 win tonight in the nation's capital. The Nationals improved to 45-38.

Stephen Strasburg's Mechanical Adjustment Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Colorado Rockies' '08 1st Round pick Christian Friedrich walked the first two batters he faced this evening and gave up a two-run double by Jayson Werth in the third at bat of the game. Werth lined to left to bring both Denard Span and Anthony Rendon around and the Washington Nationals took a 2-0 lead early in the second game of three with the Rockies in the nation's capital. Ryan Zimmerman sent a sac fly to right in the next at bat and it was 3-0 Nats before Friedrich got out of the first.

A double by Stephen Strasburg and single by Denard Span put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth and ended Friedrich's night. Right-hander Chad Bettis took over on the mound and gave up a two-run double to left by Anthony Rendon, who brought both runners in for a 5-0 lead. A double by Jayson Werth brought Rendon around and it was 6-0 Nats in Nationals Park. Werth scored on a wild pitch from Bettis for a 7-0 lead after four.

Rockies' second baseman DJ LeMahieu broke up Strasburg's bid for a shutout with a one-out solo home run to left-center that landed in the Red Porch seats, 7-1.

That's how it ended. Nationals 7-1 over Rockies in D.C.

4. Tweak: In his last three starts, opposing hitters have put up a .324/.359/.595 line against Stephen Strasburg, who gave up 24 hits, four walks and 14 runs, all earned in 17 ⅓ IP (7.27 ERA) over that stretch.

"I don't know if it was fastball command so much today," Williams said, "but his changeup wasn't as good today so he couldn't go to it." - Matt Williams on Strasburg vs the Brewers

The Nationals' 25-year-old right-hander start against the Milwaukee Brewers during last week's road trip was a particularly frustrating outing for the '09 no.1 overall pick, coming as it did a day after a 16-inning affair in Miller Park in which the Nats exhausted their bullpen.

Strasburg took the mound in the finale with the NL Central-leading Brewers looking to help the Nationals sweep the three-game set with a strong, and more importantly long start that would help the overworked relievers, but he was out after just 4 ⅔ IP in which he gave up eight hits, three walks and seven earned runs.

In a post game interview with reporters, including The Washington Post's James Wagner, Strasburg said he wasn't sure what it was exactly, but his mechanics were "not right." Asked for any thoughts on what was wrong, Strasburg reiterated that he wasn't sure:

"Still trying to figure that out. Just doesn’t feel the same. Doesn’t look the same."

After looking back at the start, Strasburg and Nats' pitching coach Steve McCatty said they thought they figured out what was wrong, with the Nationals' starter explaining to reporters, including MLB.com's Cody Ulm, that the "mechanical flaw" was resulting in the righty rushing his delivery and leaving the ball up in the zone:

"[My four-seam fastball was] not really keeping the angle and not really pounding it down, and I think it's just something that I kind of focus in on mechanically to get back to hitting the spots a little bit better and not having it tail over the plate."

Tonight in the nation's capital, Strasburg was facing a Colorado team he fared well against in previous outings, going (1-2) in three starts with a 2.84 ERA, two walks and 23 Ks in 19 IP over which he held Rockies' hitters to a combined .268/.303/.408 line.

Strasburg's 18th start of the 2014 campaign began with a fly to center...

1st: Corey Dickerson sent a fly ball out to Denard Span in center field for the first out of tonight's game. A 94 mph 1-2 fastball got Josh Rutledge looking for out no.2 and K no.1. Rockies' first baseman Justin Morneau battled for ten pitches before lining to right-center for a two-out single, bringing Drew Stubbs up with a runner on, but Stubbs went down swinging at an 0-2 curve that ended a 24-pitch opening frame.

2nd: Wilin Rosario singled to right for the Rockies' second hit off Strasburg. Ryan Wheeler lined out to short for the first out of the frame. Brandon Barnes grounded out to second base for out no.2, moving Rosario to second. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu battled for eight pitches, but went down swinging at a filthy 2-2 bender. 17-pitch frame, 41 total after two scoreless.

3rd: Christian Friedrich K'd swinging through a 1-2 heater up high in the zone. K no.4. A weak roller to first off Corey Dickerson's bat gave Strasburg two quick outs. Josh Rutledge popped to short left, where Ian Desmond made an over-the-shoulder grab for the final out of a seven-pitch frame. 48 total after three.

4th: Justin Morneau popped out to foul territory in left on the first pitch of the fourth. Drew Stubbs took a 2-2 curve inside for a called strike three and K no.5. Wilin Rosario stepped in with two out and no one on and lined to right on 95 mph a 1-0 fastball. Ryan Wheeler hit one straight down that bounced in front of the plate. Wilson Ramos jumped on it and threw to first to end a 13-pitch inning that left Strasburg at 61 pitches total after four.

5th: After a long bottom of the fourth, Strasburg fielded a weak roller off Brandon Barnes' bat and threw to first for out no.1 of the fifth. DJ LeMahieu tested Ryan Zimmerman, who threw to Adam LaRoche for out no.2. Chad Bettis picked up a bat and grounded back to the mound. 11-pitch fifth, 72 total after five. 12 of 13 set down.

6th: Corey Dickerson grounded out to second. Josh Rutledge lined a 95 mph 3-2 fastball to center for the Rockies' third hit, but he was doubled up on a 3-6-1 DP off of Justin Morneau's bat. 13-pitch sixth, 85 total.

7th: An 0-2 curve got Drew Stubbs swinging for K no.6. Wilin Rosario sent a weak roller to third that Ryan Zimmerman handled. Ryan Wheeler's roller to first ended an 11-pitch frame. 96 pitches total after seven scoreless.

8th: Brandon Barnes went down swinging at a 79 mph 0-2 curve, but DJ LeMahieu broke up Strasburg's bid for a shutout with a solo home run on a 1-2 curve. Charlie Culberson K'd swinging at another 1-2 bender from Strasburg. K no. 8. A two-out walk to Corey Dickerson ended Strasburg's night after 111 pitches.

• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 111 P, 78 S, 10/2 GO/FO.

3. Freidrich vs the Nats: Colorado Rockies' lefty Christian Friedrich faced the Washington Nationals once during the 2012 campaign, as a 24-year-old rookie. In 4 ⅓ IP in Coors Field, the southpaw surrendered nine hits and four earned runs in what ended up a 12-5 loss.

The Rockies' '08 1st Round pick was called up to help out in the major league rotation two weeks back, returning to the majors for the first time since July of 2012.

In 13 starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs before he got the call, Friedrich was (1-8) with a 7.89 ERA, a 5.34 FIP, 25 walks and 55 Ks in 13 starts and 67 ⅓  IP.

In two starts with the Rockies before tonight's, he was (0-2) with a 8.10 ERA, a 6.30 FIP, four walks (3.60 BB/9) and 11 Ks (9.90 K/9) in 10 IP.

Friedrich walked the first two batters he faced this evening, putting Denard Span and Anthony Rendon on in front of Jayson Werth, who ripped into a 1-2 curve and sent a screaming liner by third and into left, bringing both runners in for a 2-0 lead. Adam LaRoche moved Werth to third and arrived safely at first on a soft grounder to second. Ryan Zimmerman sent a sac fly to right to bring Werth in, 3-0 after one.

Wilson Ramos singled to start the Nationals' second, but three outs later he was stranded at first at the end of an eight-pitch inning by Friedrich, who was up to 42 pitches total after two.

Werth walked to start the Nationals' third and one out later Ryan Zimmerman took the fourth free pass from Friedrich. Ian Desmond worked the count full in his two-on, two-out at bat, but grounded out to short to end a 33-pitch inning that left the Rockies' lefty at 75 pitches overall.

Stephen Strasburg doubled to right with one down in the Nationals' fourth. Denard Span lined to right in the next at bat, moving Strasburg over to third and ending Friedrich's night...

Christian Friedrich's Line: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 84 P, 45 S, 2/2 GO/FO.

2. Zim Can Still Pick It: In his first game back at third since coming off the DL last night, Ryan Zimmerman was tested several times, making the sort of charging plays he's excelled at in his career without incident and one particularly impressive double play. The double play came in the seventh inning, when the Nationals' '05 1st Round pick showed some doubters that he might still possess the reflexes necessary to man the hot corner.

Drew Storen surrendered a one-out single to right by Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon connected with a 1-2 pitch low and outside that he punched the other way, sending a fairly soft line drive toward third that Zimmerman dove for and picked out of the air. With time to show third base ump Alan Porter that he caught it cleanly, Zimmerman popped up and bounced an overhand throw to first that Adam LaRoche collected before stepping on the base to complete an inning-ending 5-3.

"[He] really didn't have time to get up really, so he just spun kind of -- as he was getting up -- and threw it over there, on the money. It's a good play." -Matt Williams on Ryan Zimmerman's seventh inning double play

"That's kind of a soft liner off the end and he ranged to his right to catch it," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the game, "and then really didn't have time to get up really, so he just spun kind of -- as he was getting up -- and threw it over there, on the money. It's a good play."

Though he admitted in recent weeks that he was no longer comfortable at third after several years of throwing issues, Zimmerman returned there without complaint once Bryce Harper returned from the DL and for the second day in a row tonight he was penciled in at the position he's played since debuting months after he was drafted fourth overall in 2005.

Though he wasn't really tested tonight, Zimmerman made a few nice plays, though the throws weren't really going to convince anyone that the shoulder's no longer an issue.

1. The Wrap-Up: Right-hander Chad Bettis took over on the mound for the Rockies with runners on the corners and one out in the fourth. A wild pitch with Anthony Rendon up moved Span up to second and a double to left by Rendon made it a 5-0 game. Jayson Werth connected for the second straight two-base hit and the Nationals went up 6-0. A wild pitch brought Werth in from third, 7-0.

Craig Stammen took over on the mound for Stephen Strasburg with one on and two out in the eighth and walked the first batter he faced, Josh Rutledge. Charlie Blackmon stepped in with two on and two out and grounded out to second to end the inning. Still 7-1 Nationals.

Stammen came back out for the ninth and retired the first two Rockies he faced before issuing a two-out to Ryan Wheeler. Brandon Barnes grounded into a force at second that ended the game. Nationals win, 7-1 final.

Nationals now 45-38

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