Stephen Strasburg wasn’t particularly sharp last time out before Tuesday night’s outing in PNC Park.
In his previous start before he faced the Pirates in the series opener in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the 28-year-old right-hander gave up as many runs in six innings against the Orioles (5 ER), as he’d allowed in his three starts and 19 2⁄3 IP leading up to his outing against Baltimore in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park.
Three of the runs he allowed came in a second inning which started with a hit-by-pitch and saw the O’s connect for four singles and a sac fly.
The other two runs allowed came on a two-out, two-run home run by Mark Trumbo in the fifth, when Strasburg left a first-pitch slider up for the Orioles’ slugger to crush to put the O’s ahead 5-1 in what ended up a come-from-behind 7-6 win for the Nats.
“That one inning they blooped us to death and that other inning they blasted us to death,” Dusty Baker said after the game.
“But he hung in there, kept the score pretty close for us.”
“I was a little frustrated at the time,” Strasburg said of the single-filled second, “but talking to “Mad Dog” [pitching coach Mike Maddux] in between innings, he was just like, ‘Keep trusting your stuff,” and it’s just like, I don’t know, sometimes I look at it like a hit is a hit, and I tried to just let it go and just keep going as long as I could.
“One pitch I wish I could have back was obviously the one to Trumbo, that was just poorly executed.”
It was a 2-2 change Strasburg left up in the first inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates.
Josh Harrison made him pay for the “mistake”, lining a solo shot to left field, but that was the only run, and one of only three hits, Strasburg allowed through six innings of work.
“He handles pitches off the plate in pretty well,” Strasburg said when asked about the Harrison home run after the game.
“I definitely wasn’t trying to throw it in that spot, and good piece of hitting so you’ve got to tip your cap.”
Strasburg came back out for the seventh inning at 95 pitches overall and was done for the night after a leadoff double by Josh Bell and a walk to Francisco Cervelli, in an at bat in which both the Nats’ starter and his manager thought he was getting squeezed.
Baker told reporters after the game he wanted to get Strasburg through the seventh to spare the bullpen.
“We wanted him to get through that because he was potentially the fourth hitter the next inning and if we get one man on base then I can pinch hit for him and then I don’t have to go through so many pitchers in such a short time to try to get out of that inning,” Baker explained.
“And it looked like he had Cervelli struck out a couple times, and then he fouled off a couple tough pitches, that was a tough at bat by Cervelli.
“We certainly wanted to get through that inning, but his pitch count was getting high and so we had to go get him.”
Two runs scored on an error by Ryan Zimmerman after the Pirates loaded’em up and reliever Matt Albers got a potential double play grounder to first.
Zimmerman short-armed the throw and sent it sailing by second, and the Pirates got one more before Blake Treinen came on to shut things down and keep the Nats up by two, 6-4, in what ended up an 8-4 win.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 108 P, 68 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
Strasburg settled in after the first, retired nine straight between the first and fourth innings and earned his fourth win of the season.
“I got a little bit better command-wise,” after the rough first, Strasburg said, “but I felt like I was grinding through it all night, so it wasn’t the best, but they picked me up.”