With the bullpen even shorter than it was before now that Shawn Kelley has landed on the 10-Day DL (lower back strain), joining fellow relievers Koda Glover and Sammy Solis, Washington Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker has leaned on his starters longer than he’d like to in some recent outings.
Baker took Tanner Roark up to a career-high 125 pitches earlier this week, and tonight in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, the veteran manager leaned on Stephen Strasburg for 119 pitches in just 5 2⁄3 innings in what ended up a 4-2 win over the Phillies.
Strasburg’s pitch count matched his previous career high set in 2012.
He battled through a left calf issue late, giving up a one-out single to Michael Saunders and a walk to Cameron Rupp in the top of the sixth before striking Freddy Galvis out to end his outing.
“He was outstanding,” Baker said after the win. “He wanted it, big time.”
“First time I’ve seen him kind of mad and showing emotion, which is fine with me. His left calf cramped up, but he wanted to — we thought we had a strikeout on that one pitch to Rupp, but he came and got the next guy and then our bullpen did the rest.”
Strasburg didn’t look pleased to be pulled when he was, but Baker stopped him on his way off the mound, pulling him back for a quick chat before the right-hander left the field.
“I just told him, ‘Hey, man, that’s a way to gut it out,’ and just wanted him to know that we all appreciate what he was doing and attempted to do.”
Baker said he wasn’t sure what led to Strasburg’s calf issue, but he didn’t think it was the tumble the starter took trying to field Saunder’s grounder back to the mound for the sixth-inning single.
“No, I don’t think that had anything to do with it,” Baker said. “He sweats like a — the worst sweater I’ve ever seen almost, and so he loses a lot of fluid. He goes through two or three jersey tops when he pitches and it was a little more humid than it appeared probably, and we just got to keep him hydrated.”
Phillies’ manager Pete Mackanin said that while they managed to run Strasburg’s pitch count up, and get him out of the game early, it wasn’t exactly a success, though he was happy with their approach.
“For the most part, but we still didn’t get enough runs,” he explained.
“We made him work, he threw a lot of pitches, they left him in to throw 119 pitches, but the bottom line is we’ve got to score off him and we didn’t score enough.”
Baker took Strasburg as far as he could, turned to Blake Treinen, (who gave up three hits and two runs), Enny Romero, who completed 1 1⁄3 scoreless and Matt Albers, who earned his first career save with a scoreless ninth.
“It’s a fine line,” Baker said of taking his starters to high pitch counts, “... because we don’t like doing that. Tanner actually thanked me for extending him some, and Stras wanted it tonight. I told Tanner don’t expect that too often, so we’ll back him back this start, and probably the same for Stras next time. Because our bullpen -- they know our bullpen is hurting, you know, and so these guys are willing to pick each other up, and it’s our job not to extend them too far, because you don’t want to hurt them and we’ve still got a long way to go. But these guys, like I said, they’re giving me all I can ask for.”
• We talked about Strasburg’s outing, Albers’ first save and more on Nats Nightly after the game: