On Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals offense continued its early season struggles as they were shut out for the first time this season. The offense managed only six hits (all singles) and did not record a hit with runners in scoring position (2-for-21 in the last three games). When the offense doesn’t score runs, it puts a lot of pressure on one of Washington’s solid starting pitchers to pitch a near flawless game.
Yesterday’s starter, Stephen Strasburg looked the part for the first three innings. He gave up two singles in the first three innings, but was able to record three strikeouts. Then, the fourth inning happened.
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One of the things you have to give the Marlins credit for is that they sat on Strasburg’s fastball and hit it hard. Martin Prado started the inning with a double, which was followed by a laser line drive by Giancarlo Stanton to give Miami the lead. Strasburg would give up four hits in the fourth and show some frustration in the dugout to pitching coach Steve McCatty.
After the game, Strasburg addressed that frustration, but would not say what exactly he was frustrated about:
— Chris Johnson (@masnCJ) April 25, 2015
You have to love that Strasburg showed some emotion, which could have been caused by a lot of things. On the one hand, Strasburg was able to limit the damage to four runs by forcing three double plays and Danny Espinosa made an error in the fourth that could have been another double play.
The problem in this game for Strasburg was that he went away from his offspeed stuff, which was excellent in his last start against the Phillies, when he held Philadelphia to one earned run over 7.1 innings. According to Brooks Baseball, Strasburg threw 15 changeups against Miami yesterday. Against the Phillies, he threw 22, but only one ball was hit in play that was not an out.
Yesterday, eight of the 12 fastballs hit in play did not go for an out and that is due in part to Miami’s aggressive approach at the plate.
Personally, Strasburg’s reaction was a great thing to see because it showed the frustration that the fanbase has for the team’s play as of late. After Yunel Escobar’s walk-off win on Tuesday vs. the Cardinals, it was thought Washington had turned the corner, but instead, the hitting has remained mediocre every inning with the exception of the five run third inning they had against John Lackey on Wednesday.
With a fully healthy lineup, four runs might have been enough for the team to come back, but instead, there is hardly any margin of error for anyone in this rotation, that is 5-7 to start the year. If Strasburg can’t get ahead on hitters consistently, look for teams to sit on that fastball and avoid the nasty offspeed pitches that the Nats pitcher can bring to the table.