Washington Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg was (2-3) in his last five starts, which included his first loss of the season, with a 5.28 ERA and .248/.295/.460 line against in 29 innings pitched heading into this afternoon’s series finale with the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field.
In his last two outings before today’s, the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick had given up 15 hits and 10 earned runs in 10 IP, with opposing hitters putting up a rough .341/.375/.682 line against the Nationals’ right-hander in back-to-back losses.
He hadn’t, however, lost three straight outings since July 18-29, 2014.
Dusty Baker told reporters before the third of three with the Rockies that he thought Strasburg was due for a bounce-back.
“The law of averages was against him when you’re 15-0, 14-0, this game wasn’t — there are too many variables that have to go good for you to go 17-0,” Baker said.
“You’ve got to get runs, you’ve got to get defense, you can’t give up untimely home runs, you can’t give up walks.”
“The law of averages [was] against him to just keep winning the way he was winning,” Baker continued.
“So now, boom, back to earth a little bit. Now it’s time to go back north again.”
It didn’t exactly work out that way.
The first six batters to step to the plate for the Rockies in the bottom of the first reached base and four runs scored before an out was recorded, with Nolan Arenado (RBI single) and Gerardo Parra (3-run double) making it 4-0 early.
It was 7-0 with one out after back-to-back doubles by the No. 8-9 hitters in Colorado’s lineup (Tony Wolters and pitcher Jon Gray, respectively), with Strasburg was up to 33 pitches in the first.
He ended up throwing a total 42 pitches to the 11 batters he faced in the home-half of the first inning.
An 11-pitch, one-out walk to Arenado and an RBI triple by Parra in the Rockies’ second gave Colorado an 8-2 lead, after the Nationals scored two in the top of the frame.
Ben Paulsen reached on a two-out grounder to first that bounced off Daniel Murphy’s glove when Strasburg was late getting over to cover first.
That grounder brought in the ninth run of the game for the Rockies, 9-2.
A two-out single by the Rockies’ catcher, Tony Wolters, on Strasburg’s 71st pitch of the game, put two on with two out and brought an end to Strasburg’s outing.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 1.2 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 71 P, 46 S, 2/0 GO/FO.
Dusty Baker was asked, after what ended up a 12-10 loss, what went wrong for Strasburg.
“Just poor location,” Baker said.
“He was throwing the ball well. I guess their game plan was to jump on the first fastball they saw. Because it was either the first or second pitch. I asked [Wilson] Ramos, I said, ‘Man, where were those pitches?’ and he said that they were right down the middle a lot of them. And you don’t have to change your bat plane at all when the ball is down the middle. They jumped on him, I mean everybody, and so we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board. Every pitcher, in every year, goes through a rough streak like that, there’s only a few in history that haven’t. So, he’ll get it back together again.”
Strasburg didn’t seem to have an explanation for what went wrong.
“Couldn’t get anybody out, I don’t know,” he told reporters after the game.
“It felt pretty good coming out of the hand. Looking back on the tape I feel like they hit some good pitches. Just didn’t have it today.”
Baker said he wasn’t worried at all about it possibly being a health issue with Strasburg after he struggled in his third straight loss.
“No. If I had health concerns — he wouldn’t be throwing 95-96,” Baker said.
“It was just a matter of poor location. He didn’t have his changeup.
“You could tell he didn’t have the grip on his changeup, which is one of his major weapons, and breaking balls are hard to throw here because they just spin up there.”
Strasburg wasn’t willing to blame his lack of command of his offspeed pitches on the altitude.
“I’m not going to make that excuse, I didn’t execute it enough to get weak contact and they hit it,” he said.
The big thing going forward, Baker said, was moving on from the three rough outings and getting Strasburg back on track.
“You’ve got to put them behind you, and No. 1, you’ve got to quit counting, that’s No. 1, because if you don’t quit counting then it goes to four and five and then it gets in your head. So, I think his next start is against another tough offensive club, the Orioles in Baltimore, I think. He’ll get it together.”