Stephen Strasburg was efficient if not exactly flashy in his Opening Day start last week against the Miami Marlins. He didn’t pile up Ks, and some balls were well-struck, but he held the Marlins to just two runs on six hits over seven innings in an 85-pitch, three-K start in which he induced a total of 12 ground ball outs from the 27 batters he faced.
“I was just trying to get more ground balls,” Strasburg told reporters after the game, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Keep attacking the strike zone. There was some balls put in play that they made some web gems behind me. That kind of kept the pitch count down as well.”
Strasburg averaged 96.1 mph with his fastball, according to Brooksbaseball.net, dialed it up to 98.1, mixed in his changeup, curve and a couple sliders, and kept the Marlins at bay outside of a two-run fourth, earning the win when the Nationals rallied late in the nation’s capital.
“He gave us more than we really wanted — not wanted — more than we’d hoped for,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the season opener, “especially in his first outing.”
“His pitch count was relatively low. He was sharp,” Baker said. “That’s a very good lineup that he’s facing over there.”
Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, PA’s Citizens Bank Park, in the finale of the Nats’ three-game set with the Phillies, Strasburg got off to a strong start with a 10-pitch first in which he worked around a two-out single.
He walked two in the bottom of the second, however, and gave up a two-out RBI single to left-center by Freddy Galvis, who beat the infield shift to drive in the first run of the game in what ended up a long, 32-pitch frame.
With the score still 1-0 Phillies in the bottom of the fifth, Strasburg gave up a leadoff double to left by Philly catcher Andrew Knapp, who came around to score on a two-out infield single by Cesar Hernandez, 2-0, when Hernandez beat out a grounder to second.
Daniel Murphy double-clutched on the play and threw late to first, waiting for Adam Lind, who tried for the ball, to return to the bag.
Hernandez scored on a double to the left-center gap by Howie Kendrick, who was 0 for 2 with 2 Ks before the hit, and it was suddenly 3-0 Phillies.
Strasburg worked around a leadoff walk in the sixth, and Baker sent him back out for the seventh inning at 95 pitches, and the 28-year-old right-hander retired the side in order in a quick, 10-pitch frame.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 Ks, 105 P, 69 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
Strasburg averaged 96.0 mph with his fastball again in start No. 2, generated six swing and misses with the ten changeups he threw (89.6 mph average) and he mixed in 21 curves, 14 of them for strikes, 13 called strikes.
“Stras pitched a heck of a game,” Baker told reporters after the 4-3 loss.
“We were late getting back to the bag, that cost us a run and then they got another two-out hit by Howie Kendrick and all their runs were scored today with two outs and that’s kind of what has been eluding us, is a two-out hit. It seems like the other teams have been getting them early in the year, and they’re certainly not any better hitters than we are, we just have to keep grinding and our breaks will come.”
Baker was asked if he thought the Philly hitters were more patient than usual against Strasburg, making him work more for the outs he did record.
“I don’t know about that — if they were patient or not,” Baker said, “because they’re not a real patient team. It’s hard to be patient. He was making quality pitches. He made big-time quality pitches. Stras really should have given up only one run and it would have been a different ballgame, but still tough to take.”
On a day when they needed a win to take the series, but more importantly a strong start with the bullpen taxed, they got just that from Strasburg.
“After that drubbing that we got [Saturday] night, Stras -- this is why he’s Stras, this is what he’s getting paid for, to go deep in games,” Baker said, “and in those games, the bullpen, more times than not, gets a rest, at least most of your bullpen does.
“Stras gave us everything that he had and everything that we wanted.”