Stephen Strasburg was not at his best in his June 23rd start against the Cincinnati Reds in Washington, D.C. In what ended up a 6-5 win for the Nationals, the 28-year-old right-hander gave up eight hits, two walks, and five earned runs in five innings, throwing 95 pitches in the relatively short outing before Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker went to the pen.
Four of the five earned runs he allowed came in the first inning of that start, when the Reds sent nine batters to the plate and jumped on the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick early, with five hits in a 28-pitch frame.
“He struggled,” Baker said after Bryce Harper hit a walk-off single off Reds’ closer Raisel Iglesias to win the game in the ninth.
“Every pitch and every batter was a struggle, but that’s how pitching and how life is sometimes,” Baker continued. “You’ve got to keep struggling and find a way to keep your team in the game to come back like we did tonight.”
“Tough one,” Strasburg told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.
“Obviously the first inning was not great but I can try to go as long as I can and as hard as I can and they picked me up.”
Strasburg finished the first half of the 2017 campaign (9-3) in 18 starts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 33 walks (2.64 ERA), 128 Ks (10.22 K/9) and a .222/.282/.363 line against in 112 2⁄3 IP.
He took the mound in the bottom of the first this afternoon, for his first second-half start, with a 5-0 lead in the series finale with the Cincinnati Reds, and worked around a leadoff single, with a 3-6-3 DP ending an 11-pitch frame.
Strasburg left an 0-2 fastball out over the plate for Eugenio Suarez in the second, and the Reds’ third baseman hit it out the other way for an opposite field blast, 5-1, but the Nationals’ right-hander struck out four of five after the Suarez’s blast, and worked around a one-out single Joey Votto in the fourth when Adam Duvall grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3.
Strasburg worked around a two-out, shift-beating single in a 13-pitch fifth that left him at 67 pitches overall.
Pinch hitter Arismeny Alcantara whiffed with a weak swing at a full-count curve for the first out of the sixth, and Strasburg’s eighth K, and a fly to center by Joey Votto (after a tense nine-pitch battle), ended a 21-pitch inning that pushed the Nationals’ starter up to 88 pitches total.
Strasburg hit Adam Duvall with the second pitch of the seventh, then struck out the next three batters for 11 Ks total on the day, on 105 pitches.
There was a little bit of drama in the seventh, with Strasburg firing one off-balance fastball up in the zone after which he flexed his arm/elbow, and pitching coach Mike Maddux came out for a visit at one point, but the righty finished the inning and his outing without incident.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 105 P, 68 S, 3/3 GO/FO.
Strasburg got 20 swinging strikes and threw 56 pitches for strikes not put in play, as recorded by Brooksbaseball.net. He got 10 swings and misses with his changeup and recorded six swinging strikes with his fastball, three with his curve, and one with his slider.
Baker talked after the Nationals’ fourth straight win over the Reds and fifth straight win overall about what was working for Strasburg in Great American Ball Park.
“The main thing is that he had a well-located fastball and then he could throw that breaking ball early in the count to steal a strike,” Baker explained.
The Nats’ skipper was also impressed by Strasburg’s ability to go seven on a hot day in Ohio.
“That shows you what kind of shape Stras is in because he’s usually not — he’s kind of a sweat hog, so he’s usually not real, real good when it’s hot, but you could tell that he’s been really working and training to deal with this heat, and he was very good today.”
Asked about the concerns that brought Maddux out to the mound in the seventh, the Nationals’ manager said they thought Strasburg might be cramping.
“He sweats a lot and he’s prone to cramps and that’s what we thought it was,” Baker said.
“He waved us off, but Mike went out anyway to check him out, so he finished strong, like I tell these guys, just finish strong, and then you’ve done your day’s work and then turn it over to someone else.”
Strasburg earned his 10th win of the season, improving to (10-3) with a 3.31 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 34 walks (2.56 BB/9) and 139 Ks (10.45 K/9) in 119 2⁄3 IP on the season.