Before he watched Tanner Roark strike out fifteen in Washington's 2-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday afternoon, Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker talked about the difficult challenge ahead for the Twins, who would be facing right-hander Stephen Strasburg for the first time in Sunday's series finale.
How, Baker was asked, would he or his old teammates have prepared to face a pitcher they had never seen before in his own playing days?
"Well, it's a little bit different now," Baker explained, "because they've got so much video now.
"Before there wasn't that much video, but you can watch video all you want to, but until you see a guy up close and personal, it's to Stephen's advantage."
"I imagine that if I was on the other side," Baker continued, "you're going to see them doing a lot of first ball hitting, cause they don't want to get deep in the count, but this team is a first-ball hitting team anyway.
"They're a very aggressive team, so I imagine that -- they've got a manager over there that was one of the best hitters of all time, so he's probably going to try to direct them on how to do it.
"I mean, I respect him as much as anybody that's played the game."
Twins' skipper Paul Molitor stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters, which surprised Strasburg, as he explained to reporters including MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr:
"It was a little different just watching the last couple games. I was trying to prepare for guys that I think would be in the lineup, and I show up to the park and see the lineup and I was like, alright, there are three or four guys that I needed to double check on," Strasburg said. "But I can’t really worry about if it’s lefty or righty. I just gotta execute my pitches and keep it close."
By the time the series finale with the Twins was over, Strasburg's participation in the sixteen-inning marathon was almost an afterthought.
Through seven innings, however, the 27-year-old right-hander was rolling, allowing just four hits and one run.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the eighth, Joe Mauer and Eduardo Nunez hit back-to-back singles off Strasburg, who went to a full count with Twins' infielder Brian Dozier, who hit a 95 mph fastball inside out to left for a three-run blast that put Minnesota up, 4-1.
"I just tried to take it one pitch at a time and keep battling," Strasburg told reporters. "Wish I could take one pitch back, but it’s a learning process."
Baker sent Strasburg back out for the eighth at 90 pitches, hoping to give his bullpen a break and get his starter a win on a day on which he'd battled to keep the Twins in check.
"My bullpen was spent," Baker said.
"We were hoping he would get through that one inning, and like I said, I tried to give him a chance to win that game, because this guy has been dealing and the worst thing is to take a pitcher out that's been dealing all game and then you bring in a reliever, might not be his fault, but in a matter of seconds, the work that he did for the day ends up in a loss. That's certainly what I don't wish for my players."
Strasburg didn't get the "W", but he didn't get a loss either, since his teammates picked him up with Wilson Ramos doubling in two in the home-half of the eighth, Bryce Harper homering in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie it and send it to extras where Oliver Perez (with a surprise bunt) and Chris Heisey (with a walk-off home run) lifted the Nationals to an improbable win.