Stephen Strasburg entered yesterday’s game coming off a disappointing loss to the Red Sox in which he gave up 10 hits and 5 earned runs in only 5.1 innings pitched. However, when he took the mound for the Nationals’ 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Phillies, he was locked in. Retiring the first 13 batters he faced, the former No. 1 overall draft pick dominated hitters, finishing with 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 run (1 ER), 2 BB, and 7 K in 95 pitches (73 strikes).
While Strasburg has never truly lived up to the hype he earned when he was a prospect, he has proven to be a very valuable starting pitcher. Since the start of 2012, Stephen Strasburg has recorded 640 strikeouts, 2nd most in the National League during that span. In the postgame press conference, Matt Williams spoke about his young ace, saying:
"“You know, that may be as good as I’ve seen him. I don’t know if I’ve seen him better than that.”"
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The offense stayed quiet behind Strasburg until the 5th inning, where the Washington Nationals put together their best two out rally of the season. Following a Dan Uggla groundout and a Strasburg strikeout, it looked as though Phillie pitcher David Buchanan was going to be cruising through the Nationals lineup.
However, fresh off the disabled list, center fielder Denard Span earned his first hit of the season. He was rewarded with being driven in by an Ian Desmond double. The hits didn’t stop there, as Jayson Werth followed up with an RBI single. The Phillies then opted to intentionally walk Bryce Harper (for his MLB-leading 5th IBB) to get to Ryan Zimmerman, who promptly dropped a double right into right field to score Werth.
The Nationals would score once more in the 6th, as Zimmerman drove in another run, scoring Desmond from second base. The Nats’ first baseman now leads the team with 11 RBI, despite sporting a .182 batting average. Zimmerman also tops all major league first basemen defensively, where he sports a 1.000 fielding percentage, with 102 putouts in 113 total chances. The former third baseman has made the transition to the other side of the diamond smoother than most expected.
While only pitching 1.2 innings, the Nationals’ bullpen came through when it counted. Relieving Strasburg with a runner on first and one out in the 8th inning, Matt Thornton retired the next two batters om only four pitches. Closer Drew Storen came in for the 9th, allowing two hits, but no runs, earning him his fourth save of the season. Storen now boasts a 1.80 ERA to start the season, although he has not had as many save opportunities as the Nationals have probably hoped.