After a rough outing in Miami in which he struggled with his fastball command, Stephen Strasburg put together a strong start Sunday afternoon in the nation's capital. Strasburg held the St. Louis Cardinals to two runs on five hits in six innings of work in the series finale in D.C., striking out nine in what ended up a 3-2 Nats' win.
A double by Allen Craig, single by Yadier Molina and groundout by Jhonny Peralta in the second resulted in the Cards' first run and a walk to the eight-hole hitter in the fifth and an RBI double by the opposing pitcher, Shelby Miller, in the at bat that followed gave the visiting Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
The pitch to Miller is probably one Strasburg wanted back. Miller got hold of a first-pitch fastball and lined it to left center and off the outfield wall on a bounce, scoring Peter Bourjos after Strasburg missed with a full-count change to the Cards' outfielder, who was hitting .195 at the time of the at bat.
"Just threw a fastball and it came back over the plate," Strasburg told reporters who asked about the pitch to Miller.
Though he left the mound with the Nationals trailing, the Nats' 25-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick said he was at least satisfied that he was able to keep his team in the game.
"I just wanted to go out there and keep it close," he said. "So, it's good that we were able to come back there in the end."
The Nationals scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh on RBI singles by Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa that cut the lead in half and then tied things up at 2-2. Denard Span hit a walk-off sac fly in the bottom of the ninth and the Nats walked off with a split of the four-game set with St. Louis.
"I think we've been able to win the close ones and that's going to be huge," Strasburg said of his teammates' ability to keep coming back early this season. "Those one-run games or those tie ballgames going in late, just to give us the confidence that we can go out there and pull it out, that's going to be huge."
The Nationals put runners on throughout the game, but didn't come through with runners in scoring position until late in the finale with the Cardinals.
"The good thing is that we're getting baserunners," Strasburg said, echoing the sentiments expressed by his manager after the win.
"It's just one of those games where we couldn't get them in, but getting guys on base and it's all going to work itself out."
The Nationals were able to come back after Strasburg limited the damage throughout his time on the mound, but they didn't rally until after he was out of the game.
"Stras was good," Matt Williams said after the Nats' win. "Good fastball from the get-go. Good use of his changeup today as well. Love to leave him in there, but we've got to try to tie the score. He was good though."
Strasburg stuck with his fastball, change and curve on Sunday, discarding the slider he worked on adding this spring. After struggling with his fastball command in Miami, he said the goal going in on Sunday was to simply, "...execute pitches better." Asked if he had used his slider at all, he said, "No."
Why no sliders?
"I felt good with my other stuff today," he said.
The changeup was particularly sharp on Sunday though?
"It's felt good all year."
Opposing hitters have a .097 AVG on Strasburg's change this season.