The past 24 hours have not been without event for the Washington Nationals. The Stephen Strasburg inning limit discussion has reached a fever pitch not in DC, but nationwide. In their final game in against the San Francisco Giants this regular season, one of the Giants’ best players, Melky Cabrera, was suspended for 50 games for taking Testosterone, a performance-enhancing drug. Oh, and there was a rubber game to finish the series.
The pitchers for the series finale were Strasburg and Tim Lincecum. In almost any other universe, this would be a huge deal simply because of the matchup. But Strasburg’s actual games pitched have been overshadowed by the inning limit discussion, and Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, has had the worst season of his career. Given those two things, Wednesday’s game was very much what you may have expected.
Stephen Strasburg had one of those outings that, by the numbers, should be heralded as yet another great outing. He gave up just two runs on four hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. He now has a 2.91 ERA on the season and a 14-5 record. I’ll take that outing almost every night. But if you watched the game, you saw the young star struggle to put batters away and find the strike zone.
In the grand scheme of things, the ultimate result is what matters, but he threw 100 pitches in his six innings and took more batters to deep counts than you’d hope to see from a dominant pitcher. In his recent starts, Strasburg hasn’t attacked the strike zone as much, and as a result, he’s thrown more pitches.
On the other side of the field, Tim Lincecum had been good since the All-Star break, posting a sub-3.00 ERA, but he didn’t have the same luck against the best team in baseball. He finished just four innings, giving up four runs on eight hits. Lincecum, with his quirky delivery and reserved personality, is a guy you always want to pull for, but something is definitely not right with the star pitcher. Here’s hoping he figures it out.
For the Nats, there are several story lines to continue watching, and there may be none greater than Steve Lombardozzi. Entering Wednesday’s action, Lombo is hitting .289 with a .337 OBP since Ian Desmond was sent to the disabled list after the game on July 22. He has stepped up in a massive way, especially as a leadoff hitter, and as Adam Kilgore mentioned, Davey Johnson wants to find a way to keep Lombardozzi in the lineup, even when Desmond returns on Friday.
With a 6-4 win over the Giants, the Nats finished a long road trip with an 8-2 record. Sure, they faced the Houston Astros, but they also faced the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Giants, who are both contending for either the NL West title or the NL Wild Card. The Nationals showed with this road swing that they’re a force to be reckoned with, and not just because of Stephen Strasburg. The team is now 41-23 on the road this season. They win games when they matter, even away from home, and that’s how you win a pennant.