Once again, Stephen Strasburg was the “stopper” for the Washington Nationals and led them to a victory with a gem while putting an end to a three-game losing streak. His manager, Dave Martinez, and starting rightfielder, Adam Eaton, both had to watch the game from the clubhouse after they were ejected in the first inning. All the offense Stras would need was Brian Dozier‘s 2-run oppo home run, and for good measure, Strasburg once again swung the bat and added a RISP RBI hit to help his own cause. Sure, the Dodgers added some meaningless runs in the 9th inning in this 11-4 Nats blow-out win, but they were stymied all day by Strasburg who was throwing a perfect game until midway in the 5th inning. His final line was 7.0 IP 1 ER 2 H 0 BB 9 K for his 14th win of the season which leads the Majors, and his ERA is now 3.26.
“We lose the first two games [of this series] against the Dodgers, and all of a sudden [Strasburg] comes in on a Sunday day game — hot, and he does what he does against a very good opposing team, a very good pitcher,” Martinez said. “I can’t say enough about what Stephen means to this organization and our ballclub.”
It might be Max Scherzer‘s team, but with the ace’s health still a major question mark, it has been Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez who are now carrying this team. We learned from Martinez after the game that Scherzer did not throw his bullpen session essentially forcing the Nats to look for a “spot” starter for Tuesday and possibly five days after that. Erick Fedde would be on schedule to start again, but since he has not been in the minors for at least 10-days, he is not eligible to come back unless there is a 10-day IL move. When the Nats have looked for some big starts in Scherzer’s absence, Strasburg has stepped up big-time for this team.
With Eaton’s ejection and Matt Adams exiting with an ankle/foot issue on a hit-by-pitch, their replacements were the struggling Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick and both batters found their stroke in this game. Robles went 3-4 with a triple and Kendrick went 2-3. In fact, all spots in the lineup today delivered hits. Juan Soto who had also been struggling delivered an opposite field home run for the 10th and 11th runs in the game. As we wrote in the pre-game, Soto, Robles and Kendrick in the last two weeks had been in slumps with Soto at .186 (8-43), Robles at .178 (8-45), and Kendrick at .042 (1-24). Each player found their bats today. So much for days-off for Robles and Kendrick.
In the 2nd inning of a 0-0 game, Brian Dozier hit a deep double with Matt Adams running from first base after he hurt his ankle/foot as mentioned and Bob Henley sent Adams home, and he was easily thrown out with the hot-hitting Stephen Strasburg on-deck.
“We’ll see,” Martinez said on Monday that the team will x-ray Adams’ foot again when the swelling goes down. “If it was broke, I think he would’ve known it once it hit him and he couldn’t stand on it. But I’m not a doctor, nor do I claim to read X-rays or anything like that.”
While Martinez said he hopes it’s just a contusion, and in a few days he will feel better, can the Nats afford to go with a 3-man bench in their crucial series that starts Monday against the Braves?
This game remained 0-0 until the 5th inning when Strasburg’s perfect game was broken up. The Dodgers had a man on 3rd base with their number-8 batter up and bench coach Chip Hale who replaced Davey Martinez did not signal to walk that batter to pitch to the light-hitting Walker Buehler. The number-8 hitter singled to score the only run off of Strasburg, and they took a lead in what turned into a pitcher’s duel until Dozier’s 2-run home run and the subsequent four runs the Nats would score the following inning off of Buehler.
With a blow-out score and Strasburg going 7.0 innings, the Nats only needed the bullpen to cover two innings. Wander Suero and Michael Blazek were the only two relievers used giving Sean Doolittle four days off. While Tanner Rainey and Fernando Rodney both warmed up this weekend, neither came into games giving them the weekend off.
While the Dodgers won on Friday and Saturday, they beat relievers who do not figure to even be on the Nationals roster if they were to go to the postseason. Earlier in the season, they crushed Anibal Sanchez who was not pitching like the player you just saw on Friday when he out-pitched Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Nats did not pitch Scherzer or Corbin in this series who both beat the Dodgers in early May, and the Nats had several injuries in that May series and were missing their sparkplug Trea Turner. Line up these teams with the Nats best starters going, and we will see who would win a 5-game or 7-game series. All in all, the Nats won 3-of-7 games this season against the Dodgers but easily could have been 5-of-7 under different circumstances. The Dodgers pitched their best-3 this series in Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Buehler. The Nats sent out only Strasburg from their best-3.
“I feel like we matchup really well with ’em,” the former Dodgers’ second baseman Brian Dozier said. “Against Ryu, we put up seven, eight hits against him. If we get a few to fall, you’re looking at 12-13 hits and we swung the bats really well, but we couldn’t manufacture runs. We could easily be sitting here having won two of three. We match up well, their ‘Big Three’ and our ‘Big Three’ are pretty good.”
You have to think the Nationals exposed some of the Dodgers weaknesses and vice versa so we will see what these teams do with acquisitions leading up to the trade deadline. Hopefully these teams will face each other again which would mean the Nats made the postseason. The Dodgers look like they will cruise into the NL West title again. If these teams meet again, the umpiring must be better than what we saw this weekend.
“I think it had a lot to do with the way things happened [with the umpiring] over the last few days,” Martinez said. “I questioned some of the calls. They do their job, and I’m not going to ever say something during the game, but enough is enough.”
The ejection of Davey Martinez was certainly a spillover from the Friday night inconsistencies we covered from umpire Brian O’Nora. But maybe Martinez’s ejection was good for the Nats as it lit a spark. His last ejection was on May 23rd which was the day before the Nats (19-31) went on this magical run to become a legitimate contender going 37-18 since that ejection.