Quick: without looking at a calendar, tell me what year it is. If the Nats are any indication, it’s still 2012.
Strasburg (W, 6-9) was absolutely masterful in completing his first career complete game. It took him just 99 pitches to produce this sterling line: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K. His feat is made all the more impressive by the fact that he battled with injury and was nearly pulled in the second inning. He lost control of a fastball that went far inside to Domonic Brown, and came down with discomfort in his groin. Davey Johnson, pitching coach Steve McCatty, and trainer Lee Kuntz came out to talk to him, but he convinced them to keep him in after one warmup pitch. Strasburg delivered on their faith, retiring 22 of the next 25 Phillies for the rest of the game, including one double play.
Strasburg’s complete game marks a massive step for the young ace. His win-loss record this year may not be optimal, but his other stats are: he has the eighth best ERA in the NL, is sixth in WHIP and fifth in strikeouts. The most impressive part of this season may well be his endurance: before this year, he had never pitched in the eighth inning. He had done so twice this season before tonight.
On the offensive side of things, the Nats brought their bats for the third straight game. As a team, they had thirteen hits, but all thirteen were singles. They struck with a run on two hits in the first inning, two runs on four hits in the fourth, and three runs thanks to a Chase Utley error in the fifth. Jayson Werth and Steve Lombardozzi (?!?) both went 3-4 with an RBI. Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, and Wilson Ramos all reached base twice, with Zimmerman and LaRoche drawing three walks combined.
All of the Nats’ damage was done against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. He pitched just 4.1 innings, allowing a staggering eleven hits and two walks in that time frame. He was charged with all six runs, although only four were earned.
Without the spectre of failed playoff expectations haunting them, the Nats have been more fun to watch as of late. They seem to be having more fun on the field as well, and a strong finish from them will certainly not make September boring in DC.
Next Game: Tuesday against San Francisco at Nationals Park, 7:05 PM. Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75) v. Gonzalez (7-5, 3.52)