The only two runs Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg allowed last night in seven innings of work against the Baltimore Orioles came on a 1-0 pitch to O's slugger Nelson Cruz, who hit his 28th home run of the season out to right-center in Nationals Park.
"That was a fastball," Strasburg said when asked what Cruz connected on.
"He's having a great year," the 25-year-old pitcher continued. "I just need to do a better job of being smart with the location not necessarily getting into the whole challenge, challenge, challenge. I feel like when I pitched him differently it seemed to work out a little bit better in my favor."
The home run was the only hit for Cruz in three at bats against Strasburg, who induced ground ball outs from the Orioles' left fielder in the two ABs in which didn't go deep.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked after Strasburg's previous start before Monday's about the Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick slowing things down on the mound on what was an especially humid night in the nation's capital.
Strasburg's pace in that outing, Williams explained, was dictated by the heat.
"I think the weather probably had the most impact on that," he explained.
"He was going to the rosin bag a lot. It's hot out there and he's sweating and trying to get a grip for every pitch is probably the reason he was slower tonight. But he went to the rosin bag a lot. I think that's probably the biggest factor. But he was focused. He was throwing it where he wanted to throw it. Like I said, he was in command of his pitches all night."
Last night, Strasburg was working at a much quicker pace.
"I think his tempo was good," Williams said. "He was just getting the ball and going. We talked about it last time where he slowed the game way down. Today, with the exception of the one pitch to Cruz he was really good. And his tempo was real good."
"I think it just allows him to just feel his pitches more," Williams said of the fast work Strasburg did on a less uncomfortably hot evening.
"Last time out it was really hot, he was really trying to feel the baseball. Tonight it wasn't so bad, so he was able to get it. Didn't have to worry about sweat and going to the rosin bag so much and all the stuff we talked about last time. But I just think his tempo and working fast and in the strike zone was really good."
It was the second strong outing in a row for Strasburg, coming after a rough start on the road in Milwaukee in which he gave up eight hits, three walks and seven runs in just 4 ⅔ IP.
"I just wanted to go out there and try to build off the last start," Strasburg said last night, "and just focus on execution of pitches and play great defense. Tough how it ended, but new day tomorrow."
The game ended in extras when the Orioles scored six runs in the top of the eleventh.
As for what he's focused on personally in the start?
"Just trying not to analyze every pitch as much and just kind of get into the flow of the game."
As much as he might not be trying to focus on every pitch, he's certainly aware of every one he threw to the Orioles, as was obvious when he was asked about facing Orioles' third baseman Manny Machado, who went 5 for 6 last night.
"I think the first AB, honestly, I think he thought it was a fastball that was coming, but he put a good swing on it," Strasburg said.
"I think it got in on his hands and he dumped one over there into right and the next one I just didn't execute the curveball well enough. I was trying to bounce it and just kind of hung it up there and he hit it in the hole."
He's working on the not analyzing every pitch thing.