Stephen Strasburg gave up seven hits, four walks, and three earned runs last time on the mound before tonight, in a 5 2⁄3-inning outing against the Cincinnati Reds, earning his 15th win of the season in a 17-7 game.
“It was definitely a grind out there,” Strasburg told reporters after the win, “and kind of all over the place with some pitches. Team came out swinging today, so they picked me up.”
In his last three starts before going up against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the recently-turned 31-year-old right-hander had an 8.31 ERA, seven walks, 17 Ks, and a .274/.338/.575 line against in 17 1⁄3 IP.
That stretch, of course, followed a post-All-Star Break run in which he was (5-0) in five July outings, with a 1.14 ERA, seven walks, 44 Ks, and a .190/.254/.259 line against in 31 2⁄3 IP.
Strasburg worked around two hits in four scoreless in PNC Park, and he took the mound with a 1-0 lead in the fifth and worked around a single and a wild pitch to complete five clean innings on 65 pitches.
Pitcher-on-Pitcher Crime— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 21, 2019
Stephen James Strasburg
Offense: Curveball abuse. pic.twitter.com/SKGsWrdKqA
A scoreless, 11-pitch sixth left Strasburg at 76 pitches, and he worked around a two-out walk in a scoreless, 18-pitch seventh that ended his outing after 94 pitches in seven scoreless...
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 94 P, 60 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
Wander Suero took over on the mound for the Nationals, and gave up a leadoff single by Jacob Stallings, threw a wild pitch that moved pinch runner Steven Brault over, and then walked Melky Cabrera before a bunt single by Adam Frazier loaded the bases.
Daniel Hudson came on and gave up a sac fly to center by Bryan Reynolds that tied it up, 1-1, and Starling Marte followed with a three-run blast to right that put the Pirates up 4-1.
So ... why did Davey Martinez lift his starter after 94 pitches? If the bullpen didn’t blow it, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but when they blow it almost immediately, you know he’s going to be asked. It didn’t help that the Nationals, who scored 62 runs in the previous five games, only managed one against the Pirates, who lost starter Chris Archer to a shoulder issue after one inning, and had to piece together the rest.
“Strasburg was amazing,” Martinez explained, “... gave us what he could, we had a well-rested bullpen, and we just couldn’t close it out.
“It’s just weird how this — baseball, it’s baseball, we score 60-something runs in five games and then today we just couldn’t get any runs but one, but Strasburg was good.”
Stephen Strasburg, Disgusting 84mph Curveball...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/wMygGqOPIS— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 21, 2019
But he was only at 94 pitches? So again, why lift him there?
“He was good, 94 pitches, his last outing was over 100, so, but he was good,” Martinez said.
“He had good stuff today, and he got us to the seventh, and like I said, we had a well-rested bullpen and it just didn’t work out.”
Strasburg was asked in his own post game interview if he was spent at that point, or had more to offer?
“Well, Davey thought it was enough,” Strasburg told reporters, “and I think we win as a team and we lose as a team, and it just didn’t work out for us tonight.”
And why did Martinez turn to Suero in the eighth?
“Bottom of the order, left-handed guys coming up,” he said. “We had him penciled in for the lefties. The cutter was good, just couldn’t throw it for strikes.”
Suero started the night with a .278/.317/.340 line against vs lefties, and a .217/.303/.396 line against vs righties, with six of 13 doubles he’s allowed hit by left-handed hitters, and all four home runs he’s allowed by right-handers.
“[Suero] was super-fresh,” Martinez added, “he just couldn’t find the strike zone. He threw one ball right down the middle, base hit for Stallings, then just couldn’t find the strike zone after that, and then the bunt, the bunt I thought if we catch that ball it’s a double play. But he’s been good for us lately.”
It was just the second outing in his last 14 in which Suero has allowed runs, but it came at the wrong time for the Nationals.