It took seven and two thirds innings and over a hundred pitchers but the Colorado Rockies finally drew a walk against Stephen Strasburg and chased him from the game. Too bad by that time they were down 7-1 after DJ LeMahieu had homered earlier in the inning. With questions surrounding Stephen Strasburg and if he could be trusted to pitch like a “true ace” he did exactly that against a wounded Rockies line-up. Missing Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado to injury and resting Charlie Blackmon and Troy Tulowitzski the Rockies line-up wasn’t much to look at and until the eighth inning all they could muster was four singles off of Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg’s final line was an impressive seven and two thirds of one run ball on five hits with eight stikeouts and just one walk. Strasburg has pitched like this all season being in the top five in K% and just outside the top 20 in BB% walking only 5.2% of the batters he has faced. Strasburg’s ability to limit walks and generate his own outs has gone largely unnoticed due to some bad luck on balls in play and the perception that his failures to prevent runs are all his fault. Tonight was a bit of a regression to the mean, but it is only the start. Strasburg lowered his ERA to 3.53 but still has a ways to go for it to match his 2.78 FIP.
Almost as big as Strasburg’s bounce back start was the performance of the Nats offense. With Harper and Ramos back the Nats line-up has a different feel. There is nobody left that is going to make life easy on opposing pitchers and give away at bats swinging widely at three pitches out of the zone. Bryce Harper only had one hit this evening but he saw a deep count in every at bat and made the opposing pitcher work. The same can be said for Wilson Ramos and now the Nats can present a line-up with the ability to grind down a starting pitcher and raise their pitch count quickly.
That happened tonight to Rockies starter Christian Friedrich but not just because of many Nats seeing deep counts. Friedrich entered tonight’s game with an ERA of 8.10 and left with one over 10.00. He simply couldn’t get the Nats out and it started in the very first inning when he gave up back to back walks to Span and Rendon followed by a two run double by Jayson Werth who would then come around to score on Ryan Zimmerman’s sac fly.
The Nationals would put runners on base every inning against Friedrich before finally chasing him in the fourth inning as they put six men on base, scored four runs, and sent nine to the plate against Friedrich and Bettis. The fourth inning would be the last time the Nats would score, but with how Strasburg was pitching seven runs was more than enough, and the Nationals won going away. They’ve now won four in a row for the fifth time this season. They’ve never won five in a row, but will have a chance when Doug Fister takes on Tyler Matzek at 6:05 tomorrow evening in DC.