Stephen Strasburg allowed seven runs on a career-high four homers, and while the Washington Nationals (62-52) nearly completed a seven-run comeback, they could not quite complete it, and fell to the Atlanta Braves (59-56), 7-6.
Strasburg (L, 8-10) was utterly miserable, but a closer look at his stats might indicate that his performance tonight was somewhat out of his control. First, the raw numbers. If you’re particularly sensitive, I would look away now: 5 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. He entered tonight’s game with a 5.79 ERA at Turner Field, a number that obviously got worse. But tonight’s key stat was the fact that Strasburg gave up four home runs, doubling his previous career high of two. In fact, every run-scoring hit he gave up was a homer: three two-run bombs and a solo shot.
Some might be concerned by this, but it can be blamed on luck as much as anything. Of the five fly balls Strasburg gave up, four left the yard, which computes to a HR/FB rate of 80%. Strasburg’s career HR/FB rate is 10.6%. You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that what actually happened was pretty unlikely. But lucky or not, the end product was not pretty.
Even after falling into an early hole, the Nats did not quit. In fact, they almost pulled off a colossal comeback.
In the sixth, Asdrubal Cabrera knocked an RBI single and Anthony Rendon rocked his 15th home run of the season, a three-run shot, to cut the Nats’ deficit to three runs. Wilson Ramos hit a solo homer and Cabrera had a sacrifice fly to make it 7-6, but Denard Span was stranded on second. The Nationals would then go in order in the eighth and ninth, snuffing out the momentum the Nats had going after the seventh.
Though another loss to the Braves has to hurt, the Nats should be proud of themselves for battling like they did. If the Braves have to hit four homers off the Nationals’ starter to win every game, the Nats should feel great about that. And with two more games in Atlanta to go, the Nats still lead the division by 3.5 games.