Considering the Washington Nationals were 40-24 against the New York Mets over the last few seasons, it probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that their starters have enjoyed success in Citi Field, where the Nats were 53-28 since it opened in 2009, and had won five in a row and nine of their last eleven heading into Saturday’s game.
Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer put together solid starts in each of the first two games of the long weekend, four-game series in New York, and in Saturday afternoon’s game it was Stephen Strasburg’s turn.
Strasburg started the day (6-1) in eight career starts in Flushing, Queens, with a 1.97 ERA, 14 walks (2.50 BB/9), 70 Ks (12.52 K/9) and a .183/.244/.294 line against in 50 1⁄3 innings pitched, coming off a less-than-stellar start at home against the Atlanta Braves earlier last week in Washington which saw him give up seven hits and six earned runs while striking out 10 in just five innings.
“Everybody has a bad day,” Dusty Baker told reporters after what ended up an 11-10 loss. “He just hung in there and battled, and he left with the lead.
“Every game is not going to be — I don’t care who you are — every game is not going to be a shutout performance.”
Strasburg tossed three scoreless on Saturday afternoon in Citi Field before he gave up a run in the fourth, but the Nationals were up 4-1 at that point.
Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back singles in each of their first three at bats against Strasburg on the day, with Cespedes scoring from third on a double play grounder by Wilmer Flores in the fourth and a sac fly by Flores in the sixth, 4-2.
Strasburg’s second walk of the day was a one-out free pass to Lucas Duda in the sixth, and it ended the right-hander’s outing after 106 pitches overall.
Blake Treinen (1 1⁄3 IP), Matt Grace (1⁄3), Joe Blanton (1⁄3, 2H, HR, 2 ER) and Enny Romero (1 2⁄3, 3 H, 0 ER) went longer than Baker would have liked but, for the most part, they got the job done.
“Our bullpen did a great job,” Baker told reporters after the game, “cause they got 11 outs, and that’s a lot of outs for your bullpen. I wanted Stras to get the victory, but he kind of ran out of steam there in that one inning.”
Strasburg did end up getting the win (W, 8-2), but he acknowledged that he wasn’t particularly sharp.
“I was kind of scuffling out there today, you know, just kept trying to make pitches,” Strasburg said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“Sometimes it would show up, sometimes it wouldn’t. But you’re gonna have games like this, you just gotta keep it close, and the offense and the bullpen picked me up today.”
“He threw up some key double plays,” Baker said.
Strasburg’s first double play came in the Mets’ half of the first, after Cespedes and Bruce hit back-to-back, one-out singles.
The second came in the fourth, when Cespedes and Bruce went back-to-back again and Cespedes scored from third on a grounder to short by Wilmer Flores.
“That limits your pitch count,” Baker continued, “and that’s a pitcher’s best friend, you get two outs, especially inning-ending double plays, two outs with one pitch, and so he’s one of our top guys throwing up ground balls and he threw them up at the right time.”
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 106 P, 68 S, 5/2 GO/FO.