Heading into this afternoon’s outing against Arizona, Stephen Strasburg was unbeaten in five starts (4-0) with a 2.91 ERA, seven walks, 35 Ks, and a .208/.263/.275 line against over 34 innings pitched in that stretch.
Strasburg bounced back from a five-inning, five-run outing against the Chicago White Sox in which he earned a win in spite of it being a less-than-stellar start, with seven strong in a solid outing against the San Diego Padres in which he gave up a run on six hits over seven innings pitched on the mound in Petco Park.
Nats’ manager Davey Martinez talked after that start about Strasburg’s work in the outing, the way he pounded the zone, struck out six, and induced 11 ground ball outs from the 26 batters he faced.
“For him, he needs to pound the strike zone,” Martinez said.
“I mean, his stuff is so good, he wants to get ahead, and work ahead all the time, and when you’re ahead and you’ve got three pitches like he has, it’s tough to square balls up.”
Arizona’s hitters were able to square up pitches throughout Strasburg’s five innings of work on the mound on Saturday, however.
Diamondbacks’ leadoff man Ketel Marte squared up a first-pitch fastball low in the zone and hit it out to right and Adam Jones hit a 1-0 fastball out to left in the first, 2-0.
It was 3-2 in the Nats’ favor when Strasburg came out for the second and left a 1-1 curve up for Christian Walker that ended up in the left field bullpen, 3-3, and a triple to center by Nick Ahmed and RBI single by Carson Kelly followed as the Diamondbacks went back up, 4-3.
Before this afternoon, Strasburg had given up just three home runs in his last 10 starts and 68 1⁄3 IP. He gave up his fourth in four innings when he retook the mound.
Three straight two-out hits in the third and another home run by Marte in the fourth made it 6-3 D-backs, and a 15-pitch inning left Strasburg at 78 pitches after four.
He was done for the day after a scoreless fifth, giving up more than eight hits in a start for the first time since August of 2016 in Colorado, a stretch of 65 starts.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 4 HRs, 95 P, 63 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
Strasburg summed it up simply after what ended up a 10-3 loss, telling reporters he made mistakes, and they got hit hard.
“I think when you make mistakes here in the big leagues, you give them a much better chance to barrel it,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“And they barreled it.”
“He’s been really good,” Martinez said after the loss. “Today was just one of those days. Couldn’t locate his fastball. Just missing his spots.”
Asked if there was anything he saw on the four home runs that raised concerns, the second-year skipper said, “No.”
“Just like I said,” Martinez explained, “when you fall behind or you miss your spots, I was just looking, guy sits in and he throws the ball away, so you just kind of have those days, but let’s just chalk this one up because he’s been really, really good up to this point.”
With Strasburg struggling to locate his fastball, and the D-backs doing damage on the pitch throughout his time on the mound, should he have mixed things up and gone with his other weapons?
“Like I said, when he’s really good, he mixes in all of his pitches. Today I think he was trying to find that fastball and that location and it just wasn’t there.”