It’s the ace’s job to be the stopper during a team’s extended losing streak, and Stephen Strasburg was ready to hop into that role on Wednesday. And at the start, it looked like the offense was going to step up, too in a 3-2 Washington Nationals victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper led off the first inning with back to back hits. Harper knocked in Lombo for the first run of the game. On a routine ground ball to short from Ryan Zimmerman, which has become the norm lately, Elliot Johnson threw an errant ball to third to try to nab Harper. It rolled slowly toward the dugout, no one stopped it, and Harper was given a free run. That proved to be the winning run, and it’s a good thing, too, because the Nats offense was inept for the rest of the game.
But first, the good stuff. You have to look again to Stephen Strasburg’s magnificent start. He threw seven innings of great baseball for his ninth win of the season. He gave up just two earned runs on five hits and struck out 10. The only time he ever looked out of sorts was in the third inning when he allowed three consecutive base runners. He did give up a bomb to Jose Molina of all people, but that will happen from time to time.
What do you say about the offense though? Other than the exciting first inning, the Nats did literally nothing offensively for the rest of the game. They were no-hit by Rays pitchers Chris Archer, a rookie making his MLB debut, Burke Badenhop, and Joel Peralta, who was ejected from Tuesday night’s game for an illegal foreign substance on his glove, from the second inning on. Bryce Harper reached base once, but he was immediately negated by a Ryan Zimmerman double play.
- Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard have almost become too automatic. So much so that they sometimes go unnoticed. When Strasburg left the game after seven innings, you knew that Burnett and Clippard were going to come in, and you always feel good about your chances. Burnett has a 1.13 ERA and 2.35 FIP on the season, while Clippard has a 2.08 ERA and a 2.00 FiP. Clippard’s numbers are even more impressive, because his FIP indicates he’s actually been better than his numbers show. Remember, don’t just thank your starters, but thank your bullpen, Nats fans.
- Stephen Strasburg threw his sixth double-digit strikeout game of his career on Thursday and gave up just two runs, yet some seemed to consider his mediocre third inning a reason to question his success. Some DC fans have started being to hard on Strasburg, who is among the best in baseball and has a great chance of starting the MLB All-Star Game this season. It’s time to start giving this guy credit and not expecting perfection; he gives you some of the best stuff in baseball every start.
- Steve Lombardozzi made a really nice diving catch in the seventh inning on a Jose Molina blooper to left field, and it may have saved the game for the Nationals. Lombardozzi looks like he’s made a good transition from a full-time second baseman into left field for now, and that’s a really good thing for this Nats team. He definitely didn’t get the best jump on that ball, but that comes with time. He doesn’t even have half a season of time out there in his career.
- The Nats offense has desperately needed help since leaving Toronto last week. I don’t like being negative following a nice win, but it’s definitely concerning. The Nats hitters looked completely lost from the plate after the first inning on Wednesday, and it’ll be hard to pick it up against Matt Moore on Thursday.