Over the last few weeks, many around the baseball world have begun to question who will be the Nationals Game One starter come October. Last night, Stephen Strasburg made a strong case for the job with seven and two-thirds dominant innings in the Nationals 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
While it may still be a little early to be looking towards the October pitching rotation with a month left to play, Strasburg’s outing may prove to be huge for his psyche down this final stretch of the season.
The Nationals’ ace overpowered Seattle’s hitters with fastballs consistently in the mid 90’s, and followed them up with devastating changeups that dipped out of the strike zone just has the batters started their swing. He was able to strike out eight batters over the course of the night, and retired 9/10 hitters he faced.
The night ended earlier than Strasburg would’ve wanted after he surrendered a solo shot to Dustin Ackley in the bottom of the eight, but he had done the job the Nationals needed him to do.
The Nationals bats were held to just two extra base hits after having seven the night before, but their three runs were enough on this night.
The biggest blow of the game to Roenis Elis, the Mariners starting pitcher, came in the first inning. Denard Span led off with a fly ball to left center that was dropped upon a collision between left fielder Dustin Ackley and recently acquired center fielder Austin Jackson.
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Two batters later, Jayson Werth came to the plate and for a second straight night, made the Mariners pay as he rocketed a two-run home run to left field.
Lobaton was 3 for 4 on the day, but that may not have been his biggest contribution to the game.
Lobaton worked in sync with Strasburg while he was behind the dish, helping keeping the hitters off-balance and framing pitches to help Strasburg get an extra few inches in the strike zone.
It is no coincidence that Strasburg pitched so well on a night that Lobaton was receiving the pitches.
After the game Matt Williams told reporters of Strasburg performance, “I think this was the best that we’ve seen him all year, and probably the most important.”
The win returned the Nationals lead in the division back to seven games with the Braves losing, and the magic number is now 21.
While the Nationals may not have blown the Mariners out of the water in this one, the game showed signs of players getting hot at the right time.
Jayson Werth has now homered in two straight games and made a running catch, showing that he is close to fully recovered from the injuries he has battled the last month. We were all witnesses to how he could carry a team in the month of July, and if he stays hot in September, this team will be extremely dangerous.
Similarly, if Strasburg can continue to dazzle hitters the way he did tonight during this final stretch, opposing teams will be helpless come October. It is time to get excited, Nationals fans.