Yes, today’s Nats game against the Tribe was Strasburg’s second start, so that was a big deal. I’ll go over that in a second. I first want to point out how sweet the jerseys were in today’s game in Cleveland.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll begin with the end: The Nationals cruised to a 9-4 curly W and Strasburg’s final line was 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 8 SO, 1 HR. He was taken out in the sixth for a number of reasons.
One reason is that he was at 95 pitches and the Nationals have said they’re going to keep him around a hundred before they yank him. (This has proven, at least in his first two games, to be a good system, unlike when the Yankees ruined Joba with the inane Joba Rules. Their failure was partly due to the fact that Joba and Strasburg are apples and oranges.)
Another reason is Strasburg had just loaded the bases by giving up a single and two walks. The walks weren’t close calls on the corners either, he was just missing. Probably due in part to the third reason.
The final reason (at least to this layman) was that there was a problem with the mound. Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble said it was because of the humidity and the heat and the sun and yadda yadda. Both pitchers seemed to be slipping when they planted their front foot because they planted in the same place and were creating a little rut. At one point between innings the grounds crew came out to fix it, and did it again shortly before Strasburg exited.
So: near 100 pitches, 5 run lead, just loaded the bases, broken mound threatening to injure your franchise 21-year old. Seems like a good time to take the kid out.
Let’s start with the good. 8 punch outs. An 8 pitch, 3 groundout third inning. A nice pitch to Austin Kearns in the second inning: Travis Hafner had just delivered a breaking ball over the right field wall. On the next pitch, to Kearns, Strasburg threw a changeup low in the zone that Kearns flied out to right. That changeup was a good response to the homer. I expected him to come back with heat, which I think is the typical reaction of a young guy who just got taken deep.
Also, as Jayson Stark tweeted: The Stephen Strasburg Radar Gun Report: 9 pitches at 100 mph, 31 at 98 or higher, 40 at 97 or higher. That’s a lot of speeding tickets.
The gas was so fast that Carpenter and Dibble admitted that they often can’t tell if they just saw a two- or four-seamer. At one point the cameraman shooting from behind first base couldn’t move the camera fast enough to keep up.
Now the not-as-good. Basically the sixth inning. He started having a little control trouble, specifically with Hafner. After having served up the homer to Hafner in the second, he pitched around him a little in the fourth. Now in the sixth he noticeably pitched around him, seemingly losing control at times. That worries me a little. He can’t let a guy get to him that way. File that away in the He’s Young folder.
The Nationals do have other players: Drew Storen came in to relieve Strasburg and inherited the bases loaded. Popout, strikeout. Storen has now inherited 12 runners this season, and zero of them have scored. Only one pitcher has inherited more runners without allowing any of them to score: Wilton Lopez of Houston has 14. Bet you didn’t know that one off the top of your head.
On the offensive side, obviously the whole team hit well to score 9 runs. Notable is Adam Dunn who belted another no-doubter. Dunn is hitting .289 this season, 38 points higher than his .251 career average. He’s hit 4 home runs since Tuesday. His last 9 homers have all come off starters. I don’t know what that means, but it’s neat. That list includes Barry Zito, Ubaldo Jiminez, and Tim Hudson. Not bad.
The Nats are off tomorrow as they travel to Detroit. Lannan against Scherzer on Tuesday should be a good matchup.