Here’s another thing for Nats alarmists to worry about: the offense.
Matt Harvey was untouchable for six innings and just good enough for a seventh, while an error led to costly unearned runs for Stephen Strasburg (sound familiar?), Drew Storenstruggled (sound familiar?), and the Nationals (9-7) fell to the Mets, 7-1.
Strasburg (L, 1-3) struggled early, allowing two runs in the first inning. Both were unearned thanks to an Ian Desmond error which could easily have been ruled a hit, but Strasburg did not look good giving up two other hits and a wild pitch in a nearly 30-pitch first. He settled down well afterwards, allowing the lead runner on but retiring the next three in each of the next three innings before pitching a perfect fifth. Ike Davis and Lucas Dudaboth homered in the sixth to put the Mets up 4-0. He finished with 6 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K. Thus far this season, Strasburg’s stats have looked good, although he has been less impressive to the naked eye. He has a 2.96 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but has allowed four unearned runs and has only pitched 17.1 innings in his last three starts despite throwing 336 pitches. He would surely look a lot better if he had received more than seven runs of support in four starts or faced weaker opponents than Atlanta and Cincinnati’s potent offenses, but he has not looked ace-like this year.
Meanwhile, Harvey (W, 4-0) was dominant early, but nearly fell apart late. He only allowed four baserunners through six: two walks and two hits, a Denard Span single and a Strasburg double. In the seventh, however, he let on two runners before a Chad Tracy single scored the Nats’ first run and a Ruben Tejadaerror on a potential double play ball loaded the bases with no outs. Harvey then retired Kurt Suzuki, Roger Bernadina, and Denard Span in order to snuff out the threat. His final line was 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. On paper, his line is quite similar to Strasburg’s, but anyone who watched the game saw Harvey dominate for six innings while Strasburg was never able to get settled.
Zach Duke pitched a clean seventh, but Mets lefty Scott Rice answered with a perfect top of the eighth. Drew Storen’s troubles continued in the bottom half of the inning, giving up a two-run home run to Ike Davis followed by another to Lucas Duda. His season ERA is now 7.11. The bullpen is still not performing well, although it has been overshadowed by larger issues in the Nats’ recent 2-5 stretch. Finally, the offense went out with a whimper as Bobby Parnell shut the door for the Mets with a perfect ninth.
Only Span, Tracy, Desmond, and Strasburg finished with hits on the Nationals, and each had one. Granted, the team was missing two regulars in Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa, but four total hits in a game is a disappointing sum. However, Harvey was stellar and struggling against a pitcher of his caliber is no shame. As is my wont, I refuse to be seriously concerned about any early-season troubles. The Nationals should fare much better against Jeremy Hefner and his 7.20 ERA tomorrow.
Next Game: Tomorrow, 3:05 in New York. Hefner (0-2, 7.20) v. Gonzalez (1-1, 4.50)