Nats get back to .500 with a Strasburg shutout gem!

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

The Nats were never behind in this game, and they cruised to a victory on the arm of Stephen Strasburg who threw a 6 2/3 inning shutout gem that finished at a 4-to-0 game to spoil the Mets home opener. The Nats scored their first run on some small ball without a hit as Wilmer Difo safety squeezed Juan Soto across the plate as Soto walked to lead-off the second inning. The Nats did not have a hit until the 6th inning when Victor Robles homered off of Mets starter Noah Syndergaard. The Nats played good baseball except for two unforced errors. One was by Strasburg on a late dash to cover first base and Ryan Zimmerman threw behind him, but Strasburg quickly got a doubleplay on Robinson Cano to not expend any extra pitches until Anthony Rendon booted a tailor-made doubleplay grounder that cost Strasburg to face three more batters and stretch his pitch count which was 93 pitches in the 6th inning.

If there was any negatives today, it was how far Strasburg and reliever Justin Miller were pushed in this game. Strasburg finished at 93 pitches in the 6th inning, and his manager brought him out to pitch the 7th inning where he fired 15 more bullets and was pulled after giving up two singles. Miller pitched again today after pitching two innings yesterday. In the postgame presser manager Davey Martinez  defended  that move by saying Miller wanted to pitch and he had pitched three innings last year. So?

The bullpen was solid today, and everyone gets a day-off tomorrow with an open date on the schedule, and the Nats will take winning two games in a row and a .500 record into Saturday against the Mets.

The Nats bullpen entered the game with an 11.02 ERA which was by far the worst in baseball with the next nearest team was the Cubs at 8.83. The Nats bullpen exits this game with a combined 9.65 ERA as they got  out of the dreaded double-digit ERA.

Yes, Davey Martinez is pushing hard on his starters and on Justin Miller, Sean Doolittle, Matt Grace, and Tony Sipp who all did their job today. But remember, this is just the first week of April and you cannot sprint a marathon out of the gates.

“[The bullpen] did a great job,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Took the ball from Stephen and got the job done. Stephen was awesome today. … It was a nice win. … If I got to do this I got to trust the bullpen, and they got the job done.”

The season is a marathon, and you just have to hope that the workload is spread around and everyone gets rest. We don’t need the manager apologizing to another pitcher after the season for overuse like Martinez did last year with Sammy Solis. There was a spot to pull Strasburg when the lefty Jeff McNeil’s  spot came up in the 7th inning with 2 outs and Strasburg at 102 pitches on his way to 108 pitches which is a lot for a pitcher with Strasburg’s history this early in the season. McNeil singled off of Strasburg with 2 outs then Amed Rosario singled and at that point Strasburg was yanked from the game. If you followed our in-game discussion, I made this point once McNeil stepped into the batter’s box so there is no hindsight thinking here.

“Everyday” Matt Grace was signaled from the bullpen in this “Hi Lev” spot and he was brilliant as he was able to strikeout J.D. Davis  who was inserted as a pinch-hitter in the biggest spot of the game as the score was 2-0 at the time.  Unfortunately for the Mets, their bullpen faltered and surrendered two more runs to give the Nats some more breathing room to close out the 4-0 win.

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