Yes, the Washington Nationals won on Sunday. And yes, they scored six runs. And yes, they finally supported Stephen Strasburg with some runs. And yes, Rafael Soriano got his 39th save. But why did it have to be so difficult, with the Nats 4 for 15 with runners in scoring position and Strasburg struggling with his command at times and making basic mistakes on two balks that forced in runs? Yes, the Nationals beat the Marlins 6-4 and took two out of three from the Fish on the road in Miami, but it's never easy with the 2013 Nats.
"It was frustrating," Davey Johnson said, "the guys were swinging the bats pretty good and we had more opportunities and just didn't make anything happen. Some guys hit the balls pretty good, but six runs, we should be able to hold that. [Strasburg] should have been able to go further, but he was a little out-of-sorts today."
Strasburg went six innings on 94 pitches and gave up four runs and four hits while striking out seven and inducing eight ground ball outs, but he loaded the bases and balked in a run in the second then two outs later with the score 2-1 Marlins did it again. Neither the pitcher or Nationals' manager even argued with home plate umpire Gary Cedestrom's calls. Bob Davidson wasn't even part of the umpiring crew.
"Normally when he has runners at second and third or the bases loaded he goes out of the stretch," an exasperated Nats' skipper explained. "He feels like he has a little better stuff when he's in the windup. And when there's runners on second, it's second sign, and the first sign that went down he liked it and he started going to it and [then stops], then it's a balk. It's hard to believe he did it twice, but he did. The same kind of issue. So, we should be past that, I mean, [that] shouldn't happen at this level at this point."
Stephen Strasburg attributed the balks to switching from the stretch to the wind-up with a man on third. Said he was "embarrassed" by them.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) September 8, 2013
Davey Johnson went on to say that it was another occasion in which the 25-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick lets things bother him and get him off his game. "Some of the things he shouldn't let be issues with him," the 70-year-old manager said. "Sometimes he takes issue with certain things that go on in a ballgame that shouldn't have any bearing on what's going to happen in the ballgame. He's better than that. And his only thing was his command issue. When he's throwing the fastball, changeup and curve ball over, he overmatches people. When he misses with everything and then has to come in there he thinks they're bushwhacking him."
"Well, yeah," Johnson continued, "I mean, you've got to look for a fastball. And his pitch selection, I didn't think, early on, to some guys that are fastball hitters was very good. But he got better as the game went on and then looked like he was kind of out-of-sorts in the sixth, so I didn't want to go further with him." The Nationals led 6-3 after five and a half, but Strasburg hit Donovan Solano to start the bottom of the inning and gave up one and two-out singles with the second, by pinch hitter Greg Dobbs, driving in the Marlins' fourth run. 6-4.
Washington's A-pen made the two run lead hold up though, with Drew Storen throwing a 21-pitch, 2 K seventh, Tyler Clippard giving up a hit but nothing else in a 9-pitch eighth and Rafael Soriano in his closer stance locking down his 39th save. The Nationals got home runs from Ryan Zimmerman (who hit three in the series) and Wilson Ramos, who crushed a line drive to left in the seventh and went 3 for 5 in the finale.
"I like the way our lineup is swinging the bat," Davey Johnson told reporters before the Nats left Marlins Park to start a four-game set with the Mets in Citi Field. "It was a big day for Ramos, he's been swinging the bat good. And Jayson Werth has been swinging the heck out of the bat every time up. And we just need to continue it, we can't afford to have any lapses here on out, we need to win them all."
Will the Nats have their 20-year-old left fielder back in New York to help the cause? Johnson was asked for an update on Bryce Harper, but said they wouldn't have one until he saw the doctor tomorrow, so Harper probably won't be in the first game against the Mets on Monday. "Hopefully, miracle cure and he's in New York," the Nationals' manager said. "Hopefully they'll fix him up and he'll come join us."
More from Federal Baseball:
- Game 142 WPA: Ramos gotz teh p0p. Nats 6, Fish 4
- Nationals 6-4 Over Marlins: Stephen Strasburg Earns Second Road Win Of 2013
- Nats Nightly: Nationals Beat Marlins 9-2 In Miami; Bryce Harper's Hip; Ryan Zimmerman's Power
- Nationals' Bryce Harper Scratched; Heads Back To D.C. For Tests On Hip
- Game 141 WPA: Where's the power, Zim? Nats 9, Fish 2