Wow, it’s beginning to seem very clear that the crazier the nights get at Nationals Park, the more our beloved DC home team seems to improve.
Despite a 53-minute rain delay, the ever-popular Stephen Strasburg (W, 15-5) would pitch an absolute gem Tuesday night. The Nats win their 77th game of the season, but more importantly expand their lead in the NL East to a whopping 7.0 games over the Atlanta Braves. Final score: 4-1, and the Nats are now 24-7 in their last 31 games.
Although he’d earn the loss, recently acquired Braves starter Paul Maholm (L, 11-8) would pitch pretty well against the tough Washington squad. After a solo shot by Ian Desmond put the Nats up 1-0 in the 2nd before the 3rd inning rain delay, the only real trouble would come in the 5th for Maholm. In that inning, Adam LaRoche was able to knock a leadoff single, followed by a quick Desmond double into the right-centerfield gap. None other than the recently demoted Jesus Flores then hit a 3-run bomb to left that would end up putting the game out of reach for the Braves. Despite earning all four runs, Maholm would strike out a commendable six hitters in seven innings of work.
As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Innings Limit aka Stephen Strasburg played unbelievably well and will surely get his GM Mike Rizzo lots more media criticism in the morning. Even the announcers were unsure Strasburg would return following the rain delay, but those concerns were quickly put to rest once play resumed. Stras had 7 Ks through four innings and would rack up three more in the 5th to bring the crowd of 33,000+ to their feet. While I’m sure some were thinking, “Can we keep this guy pitching for the playoffs?” I certainly wasn’t. Unlike the majority of reporters, I’d personally rather have Strasburg healthy and dominant for ten more years and not risk him for this one chance we may have to win some playoff games in 2012. Final line for Strasburg: six innings pitched with one earned run, one walk, and ten punch-outs.
Though manager Davey Johnson used his whole bullpen in the 13-inning affair last night, Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard all pitched very well this evening to provide yet another series win for the Nats.
Champ of the Game: Gotta go to the man of the hour, Mr. Stephen Strasburg. He’s only given up four earned runs in his last four starts (24 innings of work). For those concerned, he’s at 145.1 innings pitched for the season.
For the Braves, Jason Heyward went 3-4 but wasn’t able to score in this one.
Chump of the Game: Thank gosh for Strasburg, or else Bryce Harper would receive a lot more airtime tonight on SportsCenter. Couldn’t hit the slow stuff all night from Maholm and Durbin, as he received four total fastballs en route to a 0-4, 4 K night.
Only three Braves’ starters ended up getting hits this evening, but surprisingly Michael Bourn hasn’t gotten a hit yet this series, so he gets the nod.
Unsung Hero: Both Ian Desmond and Jesus Flores were clutch, as Flores would hit the bomb to put the Nats up 4-0 in the 5th and Desmond would hit a homer and double to complete his 2-3, 2-run and RBI night.