There’s been plenty of talk about the plan for Stephen Strasburg. Media, pundits and fan alike all have opinions on when — or when — the Washington Nationals should shut him down for the season, his first full season following Tommy John surgery. But in the meantime, Strasburg just goes about his job. On Sunday, he was successful at it, limiting the Miami Marlins to three hits over six innings, leading the Nats to a 4-1 win over their rival and taking three of four out of the weekend series.
The win gives the Nats a 65-43 record, 22 games above .500 and three games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East.
Strasburg struck out six over the course of six innings, walking just one. He used 91 pitches — 55 strikes — to dispatch the Marlins, who managed just one extra-base hit against Strasburg in the three he allowed. Manager Davey Johnson explained that because of the heat, and that he had his bullpen lined up the way he wanted, he didn’t send Strasburg out for the seventh after 91 pitches. He didn’t really need to.
Craig Stammen had some exciting moments in his inning pitched, allowing one run on back-to-back doubles to start the seventh. But the righty wiggled out fo the jam and never let the tying run come to the plate. Sean Burnett pitched a perfect eighth, and with Tyler Clippard unavailable after throwing three straight days, Drew Storen recorded the final three outs for his first save of the season after recording 43 out of 48 last season.
Storen was particularly nasty Sunday, featuring a changeup that stymied left-handed hitters. Jose Reyes took such a big cut at one, he dropped to one knee on the follow through after swinging over top of it. Storen struck out one and gave up a hit in the outing, but all his pitches had tremendous movement on them.
The offense was fueled by both a likely and unlikely source. Adam LaRoche knocked in two, going 3-for-4 while completing a week that could very well garner Player of the Week consideration. And Strasburg himself started the scoring, with a two-run single against Miami starter Ricky Nolasco (L, 8-11, 4.95). Strasburg lifted his average to .343 this season to go with a 12-5 record and 2.97 ERA.
THE TAKEAWAY: Storen looked good. Like, real good. He has told the media that he really worked on his changeup while he was out and he featured it prominently Sunday. Combined with a heavy 94-MPH fastball and sharp slider, if Storen can continue to show that change — to lefties especially — it gives him another potent weapon in an already impressive arsenal.
THE GOOD: LaRoche. He continued to scald the ball. He’s 17-37 (.459) the last ten days with five homers and 12 RBIs.
THE BAD: After striking out in the fourth with a runner on first, Bryce Harper pounded his bat into home plate, shattering it. Showing that type of emotion on the field is one thing, but doing breaking a bat in that manner so close to the catcher and umpire is dangerous and disrespectful. In addition, if Lombardozzi had been running, the umpire probably could have called interference and called the runner out. According to reports from the Marlins clubhouse, Harper apologized to catcher John Buck and home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreath his next at bat, so hopefully he’s learned his lesson.
THE UGLY: It was too nice a day to have any ugly.
THE STATS: 10 hits, 5 BBs, 6 Ks. 3-for-9 with RISP, 11 LOB, 1 GIDP. No errors, 1 DP
NEXT GAME: The Nats start a 10-day road trip Monday at 8:05 pm against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.57) faces lefty Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 5.77).