Stephen Strasburg gave the Washington Nationals all he had, but the 28-year-old right-hander ran into trouble in the eighth inning on Sunday afternoon, after seven scoreless on the mound against the Atlanta Braves.
Strasburg gave up a one-out walk and two-out single, then battled Dansby Swanson in an eight-pitch at bat, just “missing” with a 2-2 curve outside (No. 5 below), then giving up a two-run double to center that got the Braves within one, 3-2, and pushed the Nats’ starter up to 118 pitches.
Dusty Baker told reporters after the finale in SunTrust Park that Swanson was the last batter for his starter either way.
“The way I was always taught by the greats, [Sandy] Koufax, [Don] Drysdale, [Max] Scherzer, the top pitchers, [is] that it’s their game,” Baker said, “and if you’ve got to extend him one more hitter than that’s what you do because you’d hate for him to do two hours of work [and have] it ruined in thirty seconds.”
The way things have gone in the bullpen this season, with all of the blown saves and late-game losses, you can understand why Baker tried to stick with his starter as long as he could, but he relented after the two-run double by Swanson, turning to Koda Glover for a four-out save.
Glover struck Nick Markakis out to end the eighth, then worked around a leadoff single in the ninth, with a double play on a well-struck liner to first and a pop-out ending the game as the Nationals’ “closer” earned his third save of the season.
“[Glover] came in and got a very tough Nick Markakis, and then we caught a break on the double play,” Baker said.
“I don’t know if that ball is fair or foul but [Ryan Zimmerman] is on the line — you guys probably had a better view of it than I did, but that was a double play that we really needed.”
Strasburg spared the Nationals’ bullpen for the most part, and Glover went out and did his job.
“We love what [Strasburg] gave us,” Baker said. “We love [that] Koda [Glover] came in and gave us 1 1⁄3 and we thought we had Swanson struck out on a very, very, very close pitch, could have gone either way, but didn’t go our way, but you’re not going good and those kind of things go against you. Boy it was big.”
With the win the Nationals avoided getting swept in the three-game set in SunTrust Park and brought an end to a four-game losing streak.
So... is the fact that Baker turned to Glover for another save opportunity a sign that he’s going to be called upon as the closer for the time being?
“Well, right now he’s the most durable and he throws strikes,” Baker explained, “and [Shawn] Kelley wasn’t available today after going two innings. Everybody wanted him to be closer, but a closer has to throw 3-4 days in a row. So, a lot of it relies on Koda’s health and he wants it and we’re willing to give it to him just as long as he keeps doing the job.”