After the "Hot Stuff" incident earlier this season, the start in Atlanta where he was overheated and needed IV fluids (it was 104°) and some talk on the pitcher's part of excessive sweating at times, there's a narrative that says Stephen Strasburg doesn't react particularly well to extreme temperatures, but the Washington Nationals' 24-year-old right-hander didn't want to hear any of that last night after he'd surrendered a career-high seven runs, five earned, on nine hits in just 5.0 IP against Miami in which he threw 84 pitches, 51 for strikes and struggled with his command in a 9-0 loss to the Marlins.
"Did the humidity bother you?" a reporter asked.
"Is there air conditioning in here?" Strasburg answered with a question, referring to the climate-controlled environment inside the Marlins' new park.
Not exactly Strasburg's version of a "That's a clown question, bro," moment, but the '09 no.1 overall pick clearly wasn't interested in making any excuses for the outing that he had last night in Florida. "No," Strasburg said, it wasn't the weather, "I mean, we've got humidity in D.C., I've been there all summer, so it's fine."
Nats' skipper Davey Johnson didn't think it was the heat either. "I think more he was fighting himself a little bit," Johnson told reporters, "Gave up more hits than he's used to giving up and they ran on him." Both Bryan Petersen and El Caballo Carlos Lee, who will never be confused for a base-stealing threat, managed to steal bases off the Nationals' starter and Nats' catcher Kurt Suzuki as the Marlins beat the Nats and handed Washington its fifth straight loss overall on a night when the Atlanta Braves were out in San Diego beating the Padres to pull within four games of first place in the NL East.
"I've got to do better than that," Strasburg said, referring to the stolen bases, " I think it's something that we, as a team and as a pitching staff, have struggled with and I've got to remember that there is a guy on base and I have to keep my times different and pick over a couple times and just no excuses."
"We've been talking to him about," Davey Johnson explained, "'They're timing you. Change your tempo. Step off.' Guys that couldn't run were stealing. It's a learning process and he's still going through that." The Nationals have reminded reporters several times recently that Strasburg's still learning, noting that is, in fact, his first full season in the majors, and he's now gone deeper into a season than he ever has before in his first full-year back from Tommy John surgery. But the Nationals needed a win last night, and the right-hander clearly wanted to help them get it.
"You want to go out there and do it every time," Strasburg said when asked about not coming through in the "stopper" role that he'd excelled in before last night, "But I'm sure there's not a pitcher in the history of baseball who's gone out there and shoved every single time, so I wanted to go out there and give it everything I had, which I thought I did, I struggled for pretty much the whole game, and it's a big learning experience for me. I think I learned a lot from tonight. So, we've just got to flush it and we've got to get back to playing our style of baseball."
Six of the Marlins' nine hits off Strasburg were singles, but the right-hander also managed to get nine ground ball outs. As an ESPN Stats & Info post on Strasburg's 26th start of 2012 noted, "Each of the nine hits he allowed came against a heater ranging from 94 to 98 miles-per-hour. That’s the most hits he’s allowed on pitches that fast in any start in his career." The Marlins also spit on Strasburg's offspeed pitches, the article added, taking, "20 of the 25 offspeed pitches he threw," and put his fastball in play.
Miami's hitters seemed well-prepared for the Nationals' starter, and as he saw it, his failure to adjust was the issue in last night's loss, which snapped a four-game winning-streak on the mound for the right-hander and handed the Nats their fifth-straight loss. "How many balls were hit in the hole right there and it's fastballs in," Strasburg said, "and you've just got to tip your cap. They made the adjustment, they know that I pitch inside and that's where I need to switch it up, but I just didn't tonight."
"They had their hitting shoes on," Davey Johnson said, and, "They hit some good pitches."
"We've been a little banged up and we've faced some hot clubs," Johnson continued in discussing the bigger picture following Washington's loss. The Nationals are 4-6 in their last ten games, 77-51 overall on the season. After one more with Miami, the Nationals head home to face a St. Louis Cardinals team that's won seven of their last ten, while Atlanta finishes up in San Diego and heads home to face Philadelphia. Ross Detwiler will try to play "stopper" tonight against the Marlins, and the Nationals will look to avoid losing six in a row for the first time this season.