The matchup didn’t seem like a good one for the Oakland Athletics from the start.
They struck out 17 times in one game against Cleveland on Thursday night after tying the A’s franchise record with 19 strikeouts against the Indians this past Tuesday.
As a team, the A’s struck out 59 times total in four games in Ohio, an Oakland franchise record for strikeouts over a four-game span.
Stephen Strasburg, who started for the Washington Nationals in the series opener in Oakland Coliseum, was coming off a career-best 15-strikeout start against San Diego last weekend in the nation’s capital, and he’d struck out 11 in the previous outing, and collected a total of 43 Ks in 32 1⁄3 innings pitched in the month of May (11.97 K/9).
Bench coach Chris Speier, who managed the Nationals during Strasburg’s start against the Padres last weekend with Dusty Baker at home in California for his son’s high school graduation, marveled at the right-hander’s ability to get strikeouts with all of his pitches.
“When you can throw 95,” Speier explained, “as a hitter you’ve got to protect against the fastball, but he had — the last two outings he’s had his curveball working really, really well, and so it’s, like I said, ‘Good luck.’ As a hitter, that’s not easy.”
Strasburg’s command wasn’t there early on in Oakland last night. He threw just four of twelve pitches for strikes in a scoreless bottom of the first.
He worked around a leadoff walk in the first, however, and retired six straight before he walked Trevor Plouffe to start the Athletics’ half of the third, then gave up a game-tying two-run blast on an 0-1 fastball to Matt Joyce, 2-2.
Strasburg took the mound in the fourth with a 6-2 lead, after the Nationals knocked A’s right-hander Andrew Triggs out of the game with a four-run frame, and worked around a one-out double.
A two-out walk in the fifth was left on the basepaths as well.
Daniel Murphy dropped a liner to second in the sixth, E:4, but Strasburg struck three in a row out after the error, adding his fourth, fifth, and sixth Ks in a 17-pitch frame that left him at 89 overall.
His final inning of work on the night ended with a called strike three on a 1-2 curve to Matt Joyce, who K’d looking on Strasburg’s 100th pitch.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 100 P, 64 S, 6/6 GO/FO.
A’s skipper Bob Melvin said that in spite of the loss, his hitters had a better approach at the plate last night.
“Granted, it’s about wins and losses and trying to put some offensive support up,” Melvin said, “but I think the approach seemed to be a little bit better.
“Guys got on the plate a little bit, shortened up their stroke with two strikes... but overall obviously it wasn’t a competitive game as it went along.”
Strasburg didn’t have his best stuff, but he did what he could and received support in the form of 20 hits and 13 earned runs.
“He wasn’t real sharp,” Baker said.
“He kind of struggled tonight, but he made the pitches when he had to and we played good defense behind him.”