Don’t read this. Go back home and live in bliss, having never known the horrors that lay beyond this sentence.
Stephen Strasburghad the worst start of his career tonight, allowing seven runs in two innings, while the Marlins’ pitching locked down after the first inning and they pounded the Nats (47-46), 8-3.
Things were looking good for the Nats in the top of the first. The first three Nats all reached via two walks and a single, and Adam LaRoche drove two in with a one-out double, putting the Nats on top with two runners still in scoring position. A Jayson Werth groundout scored Bryce Harper before the inning ended, and the Nats led 3-0 against Nathan Eovaldi.
With a 3-0 lead very early against baseball’s second worst team, the Nats had to be in business, right? Not quite. All of their good feeling quickly evaporated shortly after Strasburg walked onto the mound. He walked three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases, seemingly having very little control. Marcell Ozuna cleared the bases with a triple that tied the game with just one out. Derek Dietrich, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Eovaldi would add singles before the inning ended, accounting for two more runs and giving the Marlins a 5-3 lead after a roller coaster first.
After the Nats went down quickly in the top of the second, Strasburg continued to struggle when the Marlins returned to bat. He gave up a walk and then a two-run home run to Giancarlo Stanton, putting Miami up 7-3. After retiring the next three Marlins, Strasburg was pulled. His final line was just as horrifying as you would expect: 2 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 K. His ERA jumped over half a run, from 2.45 to 2.99, and he likely cost himself a shot at replacing Jordan Zimmermannin the All-Star Game. He threw 66 pitches, but just half were strikes.
In his postgame remarks, Strasburg acknowledged that he felt his issues were mechanical, causing his command to be off: “I couldn’t throw a strike.” He remarked that the start was “frustrating”, which may have been an understatement. Davey Johnson was a bit more circumspect, remarking that losing control like Strasburg did “can happen to anybody, but it’s kind of remarkable to happen to him.” Strasburg set multiple new career worsts in this start: he allowed five runs in an inning and seven runs in a start for the first time.
Strasburg’s replacement, long reliever Ross Ohlendorf, did an excellent job in relief. He tossed four scoreless innings, during which he allowed just one hit and walked two. He now has a 1.74 ERA as a Nat, and has been a huge boon to the bullpen given Craig Stammen‘s recent inconsistency. Fernando Abad, a similarly successful minor league callup, mopped the game up by allowing one run in its final two innings.
Meanwhile, Eovaldi locked the Nats down. He only allowed two more baserunners over his four remaining innings, and finished having allowed no more runs. The Nats’ offense showed signs of life after he departed, with two runners on in each of the seventh, eighth, and ninth, but failed to score again. No Nat had multiple hits, but the team had more walks (7) than hits (6) and five players reached base twice.
After winning four straight to come within four games of Atlanta and four games over .500, the Nats have lost four of five to fall back six games behind Atlanta and clinging to a winning record. With Dan Haren facing All-Star Jose Fernandez tomorrow and rookie Taylor Jordan going Sunday, the Nats will face an uphill battle to not lose a series to baseball’s second worst team and enter the All-Star break with a healthy amount of frustration.
Next Game: Saturday in Miami, 7:15 PM. Haren (4-10, 6.00) v. Fernandez (5-5, 2.83)