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“What the doctor ordered”

Aug 20, 2014, 12:26 AM EDT

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There are nights when the Nationals hope Stephen Strasburg takes the mound and does something like this, and then there are nights when the Nationals need Stephen Strasburg to take the mound and do something like this.

It might sound harsh to suggest a team already on a 7-game winning streak needed eight innings of 1-run ball from its erratic right-hander. But make no mistake, the Nats desperately needed it from Strasburg on this night, given the fact as many as four members of their bullpen weren’t available to pitch in anything other than an emergency after back-to-back, extra-inning games.

Strasburg himself understood the situation, and thus was particularly pleased with the performance he put forth to helped lead his team to an 8-1 thumping of the Diamondbacks, extending their winning streak to eight games.

“I guess it’s what the doctor ordered,” he said.

Strasburg’s teammates certainly appreciated the effort.

“I don’t necessarily think that Stephen went out there thinking he had to go eight tonight; I don’t think any of our starters ever feel like they have to do that,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “But the way Stephen pitched, I hope, is indicative to what we’re going to see in the future. He’s been great a lot in his career, but tonight was one of those games where he was really fun to watch.”

Why was Strasburg so fun to watch? Because he went right after Arizona’s hitters, wasting few pitches, getting lots of weak contact and letting his defense do the work.

Strasburg struck out only four batters, a rare low total for the man who leads the NL in that department. But he didn’t need punch outs on this night. He needed quick outs, giving himself the best chance of pitching deep enough into the night to give his relievers a much-deserved break.

“Not a lot of strikeouts, but a lot of groundballs,” manager Matt Williams said. “Limited pitch count, putting the ball in play, which is good.”

Strasburg made one mistake — a fastball over the plate to David Peralta in the top of the first that landed in the right-field bleachers — but otherwise cruised through his outing. Pitching with a comfortable lead most of the night after his teammates posted a 6-spot in the bottom of the third, he was free to attack the strike zone with mostly fastballs, and as such walked off the mound after the eight inning with only 95 pitches to his name.

To that point, not a soul had stirred in the Nationals’ bullpen. But then the phone rang, Matt LeCroy picked it up and Jerry Blevins (who had appeared only once in the previous four days and was the lone member of the relief corps who actually needed work) began to limber up for the ninth inning.

As much as Strasburg would have liked the opportunity to go for his second career complete game, he understood his manager’s rationale.

“If it was a shutout, I think you’d have to rip the ball out of my hands,” he said. “But Jerry didn’t get an opportunity to pitch in a while, and it was a good situation to get him out there and get him some good work in. Down the stretch, we’re going to need all 25 guys, so I understand completely.”

Thus ended a start by Strasburg that, while short on highlight material, might well have been among the most-impressive performances of his career. Knowing what his team needed of him, he went out and did just that.

It was the latest twist in what has been an odd season for the former No. 1 draft pick. Scrutinized mercilessly at times — and justifiably so — he still wakes up Wednesday morning sporting a 3.41 ERA, career-high 198 strikeouts and only 38 walks in 171 1/3 innings.

Could Strasburg be better? Sure, and he’ll be the first to say it. But at this point, what has transpired to this point means far less than what transpires from this point on.

If Strasburg can do more of what he did Tuesday night, the Nationals will find themselves in good position when it really counts.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “Got to roll with the highs and lows. Just got to go out there and give it everything you have when your name is called.”

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    Solid pitching, effective offense, good defense — doctor’s orders, indeed. GYFNG!

  2. David Proctor - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:00 AM

    “I’ve been trying to do a better job of getting on there for Bryce (Harper). I know it’s not fun hitting with no one on base. I’m working my butt off. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it, but I’m trying to get on base for him.” – Ian Desmond

    Could this be responsible for his increase in walks? I mean, it’s not like he wasn’t trying to get on base before, so I’m always skeptical of these types of comments, but I suppose it is possible he changed his approach.

    Either way, I like him saying it.

    • zmunchkin - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      +1

  3. laddieblahblah - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    This is the 2nd game in a row where SS prospered with Lobaton calling the game. Unlike last time, against the Mets, there were far fewer breakers and change-ups, but Lobo still had SS locating his FB in, out, high, low, breaking in, or breaking out, etc. It was all over the place. That’s 15 straight innings of Lobo and SS with only 1 earned run and only 6 hits – domination.

    Matt may have found just what Strasburg needed, and Ramos has to rest those hamstrings every few days, anyway.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      Earlier in the season Strasburg appeared to be throwing Lobaton under the bus for calling “too many fastballs.” The last two starts — in the previous start Strasburg credited making “small” changes in mechanics — have show him to be more involved in the game and more responsible for his own performance. (You’ve got to wonder, though, how — after more than three-quarters of the season — he discovered “efficiency,” and that 95 pitches in eight innings is better than 107 in six.) Strasburg has, what, six starts left? More than all but a handful of pitchers he has the ability to win all six, which would make a pretty good season — if he sticks to the principals that guided him last night. (and Lobaton catches, too.)

  4. MicheleS - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:11 AM

    This was a fun game to be at. Stras – outside of the HR – looked fabulous and I LOVED the low pitch count.

    • NatsLady - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:13 AM

      Me, too. Not sure why he was bunting–but apparently he needs the practice.

    • BurnedOnce - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:11 AM

      I think I heard Lobaton say on the post game the one pitch SS shook off resulted in the HR. After that SS didn’t shake him off.

      • ehay2k - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        I saw that too. Not sure if that was anything to be shared. But the Lobaton has reputation for calling more off speed pitches than Ramos. That seemed to work well last night.

    • adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:26 AM

      You were there, too? I wish I had known!

  5. NatsLady - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    At the game they flashed stats for Rafael Martin, the pitcher we got from Mexico. He’s doing great in Syracuse. Possible relief help? He’s a righty. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t552&player_id=514669#/career/R/pitching/2014/ALL

    • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:46 AM

      The calls for relief help may subside after last night. Amazing what a game like that will do for the pen. September is right around the corner.

      Seems like the most likely move is Taylor to head down and Schierholtz to join the team for the road trip.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Sec222, if the Nats can get another 7 full innings tonight and 7 on Thursday that would go a long way in saving this bullpen. One night was very needed but the plan was to throw Blevins for multiple innings if needed. Multiple innings luckily weren’t needed.

    • DaveB - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:03 AM

      Rafael “Beer league” Martin is a great story and definitely having a breakout this year. I think it would take a lot to add him to both the 40 man and the 25 man with Sept. so close, but he has definitely made a statement for himself, and I hope he gets a chance to show how it plays at the ML level.

    • adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      Indeed — I mentioned that during the game thread. I think the stats flashed included something like:

      – 29 straight releif appearances without a run, which included
      – 41 (or so) straight scoreless innings
      – and an ERA close to 1.00

      However, looking at NL’s link, I see: he gave up 3 runs last night (and that he’s age 30)

  6. sjm308 - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    I will be watching tonight, but not live.
    Hat will still be on
    Really upset about one thing last night and it had nothing to do with our lads on the field
    I am letting it go, but it’s pretty obvious after spending almost 2 innings with our agent that the Lerners want to phase out or at the least devalue everything but 1/2 and full season plans.
    No excuse for not seeking out Wonk but my old mind was either enjoying that 6 run 3rd or talking to the guys around us about ideas for next year. Anyway, sorry Wonk and maybe next time.

    • BurnedOnce - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      Yes. And They raised dugout seats over $25 per seat this year. Outrageous. I’m curious if others had similar over 30% increases.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      I also am bummed with all of the devaluation of the partial plan. We have had our seats for years and every year they take a bigger chunk away from us while charging more. We have 4 seats, but I can’t possibly commit to more than a 21 game package. We get to around 30 regular season games a year, but it is a 60 mile round trip, and Metro is totally impractical from where we live. And 308? You got decent seats for the playoffs. Lucky you. We got pushed from our normal seats in 311 to 239 where we can’t even see the right fielder, and sometimes the centerfielder, and this after prepaying for both the playoff tix and for 2015 renewal.

    • adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      Dude — I was probably sitting within 20 feet of you! Probably walked right by you a few times — but I didn’t remember what you looked like.

    • bowdenball - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:57 AM

      I’ve seen this complaint about partial plans, not really sure I understand it. What privileges are being taken away from partial plan holders next year? I know that half and full season plan holders are getting MORE perks, but that’s not the same thing as devaluing partial plans.

      • sjm308 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:11 AM

        Bowden
        Biggest thing for us is NO guarantee of playoff tickets for 2015
        The 21 game package will be “eligible ” for presale but they can’t guarantee where those seats might be or if there will even be seats. I realize it’s pretty far fetched to think every single 1/2 and full season ticket holder will take advantage of buying extra strips and leaving little for the rest, but I have been a STH since day one and just feel they could do a little better at making us feel valued.
        The dedicated agent, the extra 10% discount on food drink, apparel. The other perks like an autograph session are minor for us., but they are making a statement that they want fans to move from the red card to the black card. I kinda feel like second class.

      • 6ID20 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Half and full season plans will have the opportunity to “meet your favorite Nationals players.” Partial plans can “meet Nationals players” – presumably ones they don’t like so much. Expect long lines for Danny Espinosa and Scott Hairston. They may even bring back Soriano to handle the demand. It’s the status YOU deserve.

      • bowdenball - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        sjm-

        I’m not sure I understand. I’m trying to differentiate between new extras being given to full season and half season plan holders but not partial plan holders (which nobody should have a complaint about) and things that partial plan holders have now but won’t have in the future (which would be a legitimate thing to complain about).

        I think you’re saying that you currently have a playoff ticket guarantee but won’t in the future. That sucks, and you have my sympathy. But OTOH it is a necessary evil as the team builds its fanbase. More full, half and partial season ticket holders = fewer playoff tickets available. I’m a full season ticket holder and our “second strip” is in a much worse location than it was in 2012 for this same reason. I wish that wasn’t the case but I know it’s inevitable.

        Not sure if the other stuff is stuff you’re losing, or just stuff you’re not gaining.

      • nats106 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        6ID20, this is just a great line-thanks for the laugh

        “Half and full season plans will have the opportunity to “meet your favorite Nationals players.” Partial plans can “meet Nationals players” – presumably ones they don’t like so much. Expect long lines for Danny Espinosa and Scott Hairston. They may even bring back Soriano to handle the demand.”

        That is too funny! You might add in that partial plan holders must submit their favorite players to ensure you don’t meet them.

      • tcostant - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        To 6ID20 –

        You comment was the best comment in weeks. I spit coffee all over my desk as I read it and it was worth the laugh. Still LOL

      • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        sjm, it’s a shame that they can’t guarantee postseason, but as the SPH base grows it has to be that way. There aren’t enough seats in the park

        Let’s say they have 20,000 seats blocked out by SPHs — 5,000 full season plans (5,000 seats), 10,000 half season plans (5,000 seats), and 40,000 21 game plans (10,000 seats). That’s 55,000 people to try to accommodate in the postseason. I don’t know if that example is anywhere near what they have, but you see the problem right. For every seat occupied by a 21 game plan holder on any given night, there are 4 people who will want to go to a playoff.

        Seems like there’s an obvious solution — get JoeS to join your group and get a half season plan! Then you’ll just have to fight over the postseason tickets.

      • 6ID20 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        They should at least allow partial plan holders to buy one postseason strip per seat before allowing full and half season plans to buy ADDITIONAL strips. Are they not doing that?

      • tcostant - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        Hope – once afull season tickets renews for next year, they get to buy an add’l postseason strip right then. I did it already.

  7. derwink - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    The “Fister” effect? It sounds like a Fister-like game.

    It would be interesting to know the impact of Fister’s style and approach, if any, on Strasburg. Is SS watching and learning? I certainly like everything about DF’s approach to the game.

    • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      See the discussion below about BABIP and FB/GB percentages. It really wasn’t a Fister-like performance. But it was a Fister-like result!

  8. Candide - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:31 AM

    Williams continues to mismanage the bullpen.

    If last night wasn’t the perfect opportunity to have ALR pitch the ninth inning…

    😉

    • Candide - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      … looks like my smiley didn’t get into the above post, so please don’t go medieval on me…

      😕😕

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:36 AM

      I understand the sentimental urge, but I have two reservations about him doing it, A: the team is still in a pennant race and every game counts. B: I’d sure hate to see him hurt himself.

      • npb99 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:33 AM

        I think that was meant as a joke. I chuckled.

      • natsfan1a - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        I also took it as a joke, and laughed. fwiw.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        This is what happens when emoticons fail….

      • zmunchkin - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        And there is also the issue that the Diamondbacks would have taken it as an insult.

  9. tcostant - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Great job by Strasburg picking up the pen. Enough said…

  10. adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Other notes from last night’s game:

    As usual, when “the Wonkling” (my 19 year old daughter — a huge fan) goes to a game, things happen.

    Last night — she led her brother and two of her friends to seats near the dugout where they:

    a) got a ball thrown to them by a player
    b) almost caught a foul ball
    c) someone (a fan) gave her his mitt (to keep)
    d) got Tony LaRussa’s autograph (he happened to be sitting right in front of them)
    e) got involved in an ice bucket challenge

    ahhh . . . the energy of youth . . . .

    She always has a grand time at the game.

    So did her parents — although we stayed in 308 and hung out

    • natsfan1a - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      Atta way, Wonkling!

    • scnatsfan - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Sounds like a real fun game for sure

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    McLouth can be moved to the 60-day list (if they haven’t done it already), opening a sit for some deserving minor leaguer on the 40-man roster.

    • 6ID20 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      That deserving minor leaguer will be Nate Schierholtz.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:50 AM

        And he is deserving, based on the totality of his career, if not based on this year. Let’s hope he is rejuvenated by being in a pennant race.

      • langleyclub - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:11 AM

        You mean the Nate Schieholtz that went 0 for 5 with 2 Ks last night in Syracuse?

        Until he shows that he has pulse (Shierholtz was hitting .091 since the A-S Break), there is no reason to add him to the roster or bring him up.

      • natszee - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        Great, another DFA’ed pine rider … Does this organization have NO ONE in the system that can pinch hit?

  12. bowdenball - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    “Why was Strasburg so fun to watch? Because he went right after Arizona’s hitters, wasting few pitches, getting lots of weak contact and letting his defense do the work.”

    Not sure what game Mark was watching, but I saw many hard-hit balls that happened to go right to fielders. The nifty double play comes to mind. Two of his final 3 outs in the 8th were liners to outfielders. I count five “lines out” in Strasburg’s 8 innings, plus a few deep fly balls.

    That’s not to say Strasburg pitched poorly last night- he was great. But he’s almost always great. He just got lucky with balls in play last night and has been unlucky on the season. Nothing more. He had no control over where those hard hit balls went and whether the defenders handled them.

    • adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      Interesting . . . I wonder what his fly ball/grounder ratio last night was compared to the rest of SS’s season?

      It did seem like there were more fly balls than usual, but that was just a vague impression . . .

      Anyone?

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        Correct! Last night, with season # in parentheses:

        LD: 28.6% (23.6%)
        GB: 33.3% (45.4%)
        FB: 38.1% (31%)

        BABIP of only .100 last night, vs .325 on the season.

    • 6ID20 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      A look at my scorecard shows more F8 (6) than K (4) for Strasburg last night. And a couple of those F8s were “it is high, it is far, it is almost gone.” Smooth Operator D Span deserves a save for last night.

  13. rayvil01 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    Way Off-topic; Harper postedca nice pic on twitter of his Harper’s Heroes kids and him after the game. Seems like a nice enough project.

    Some Braves fan in uniform posted the most vile reply wishing himt to be hit in the head and calling him a name that’s offensive. What is the matter with that fan base?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Sad that Barves fans clap and cheer on beanballs.

      • natsfan1a - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:15 AM

        And chop. And chant. Actually, those two aren’t sad. Just…well…um, yeah…

    • npb99 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      I want Atlanta to miss the playoffs (almost) as much as I want us to make them. Come on Pittsburgh, wake up!

      • thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        actually want ATL to make playoffs and play us in DS round so we can relish dumping them in person

  14. Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Section 222 – Aug 19, 2014 at 11:15 PM
    Back from the game, and damn if they didn’t go and do exactly what the doctor ordered!

    I guess I was not only a summoner last night, but I was channeling Stras’s quote.

    Last night’s game showed again that a bigger factor in stress on the bullpen is close games, extra innings, and lack of run production than starters’ performances. If Anderson had succeeded in blanking the Nats or limiting them to one run through 6, Stras, even though he was pitching well, doesn’t hit for himself in the 6th or 7th. That means we use 2 or 3 relief pitchers instead of 1. And if we go to extras, we’re in even deeper trouble.

    Good hitting solves all ills.

    The Nats are getting some serious love on MLB Network these days. Maybe by playoff time, they’ll cut out the “finally doing what we expected them to do” meme.

    • adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      Last night’s game showed again that a bigger factor in stress on the bullpen is close games, extra innings, and lack of run production than starters’ performances

      One other factor: winning. If you’re down by three in the 8th inning, you’re going to using the back end of the bullpen. But we’ve been winning, tied, or close, and so we’re constantly using the front end (Sori, Clip, Storen, Thornton) . . .

      • adcwonk - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        (less you’re ahead by seven runs, of course ;-) )

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 85 63 -- 4
ATLANTA 75 74 10.5
MIAMI 72 76 13.0
NEW YORK 72 78 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 69 80 16.5
Through Sunday's games

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MON: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
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FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
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