Someone check the calendar: this looked more like the April Nats than the vastly improved May version.
An error helped undo an otherwise stellar performance from Stephen Strasburg, Edwin Jacksonexacted a measure of revenge in his return to DC, and the Nats’ (20-16) five game winning streak came to an end as they fell to the Cubs, 8-2.
Strasburg (L, 1-5) was at his most impressive and least impressive all in one outing. Through four innings, Strasburg looked brilliant, allowing just one hit and striking out six. However, in the fifth, which would be his final inning, he had a striking display of immaturity. With two outs, Ryan Zimmerman committed an error with a bad thrown to Adam LaRoche. Suffice it it say, Strasburg did not respond well to this adversity. He promptly walked the Cubs’ #8 hitter, .160-hitting Darwin Barney, and allowed a two-run double to the pitcher Jackson. Even more discouraged, he walked another batter and allowed two more singles to make it 4-0. He was a mess by the end of it, failing to back up home on the second single that scored the second pair of runs. As Davey Johnson said after the game, “Where we needed him to pick us up, the air went out.”
Normally, I condemn those who overreact to isolated incidents, but this is different. A pitcher having a bad start or relief appearance or a hitter having a slump is something that can happen a few times. What Strasburg did today can absolutely never happen. It seems as though he is putting too much pressure on himself to be excellent, and gets upset with himself when things don’t go how they should. This is not a mindset that a 24-year-old pitcher who’s supposed to be the ace of one of baseball’s best staffs can have. As bad as this is, it appears there is hope that this might be the turning point. In the post game press conference, no one defended Strasburg. Johnson and Wilson Ramos, who spoke about Strasburg’s bad body language and his lack of focus, expressed disappointment in him, meaning that a conversation about his demeanor is likely coming up. One can only hope the message takes hold.
After that debacle, Zach Duke had one of his own. Ian Desmond hit a home run for the second consecutive day to cut the lead to 4-1, but Duke allowed four runs in the top of the sixth while recording only two outs, putting the game all but out of reach at 8-1. His ERA is now 8.40, and the issue with him appears to be nothing but a lack of ability. If he doesn’t change soon, he is not long for the team. In some more positive news, however, Henry Rodriguez pitched two scoreless innings (with no walks!) and dropped his ERA to 3.09. A sixth-inning bases-loaded single made Desmond the life of the offense, going 3-4 and accounting for 60% of the team’s hits.
Next Game: Sunday v. Chicago (NL), 1:35 PM. Feldman (3-3, 2.70) v. Gonzalez (3-2, 4.97)