The Washington Nationals offense staked Stephen Strasburg to a 5-0 lead, and the Nats rolled from there in a 6-2 win. This win was the team’s 80th of the season, and Strasburg won his 17th game of the season which is the tops in the NL. It was the Minnesota Twins who made some key mistakes to give the Nationals some extra chances, and the Nationals took advantage. Strasburg went 6.0 full innings throwing 104 pitches while giving up 2 earned runs. While he was not his sharpest, he made some big pitches when he got himself in trouble. The Nationals bullpen threw a three inning shutout, and we saw Sean Doolittle in his first “LOOGY” spot of the season which was a big spot and Doo delivered.
“[Strasburg] grinded it out tonight. A good amount of traffic on the bases — didn’t have his great stuff, but that’s where he really turned the corner the last three or four years,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “Even when he doesn’t have his great stuff, you know he grinds it out. He’s a complete pitcher now. If something isn’t working he can go to Plan B or Plan C.”
For Strasburg, he got the job done, and getting through six innings really took the stress off of the bullpen to set-up for the “A” guys.
“You can kind of see the finish line there,” Strasburg said. “I think it’s easy to go out there and overthrow — tried that before and it doesn’t work. For me, I just try to go out there and slow down a little bit. Make sure I’m focused on each pitch and make sure I’m not rushing through things.”
There are distinct differences between Strasburg and Max Scherzer in how they see the finish line. Strasburg is not an “empty the tank” guy like Scherzer. If anything, he does the opposite and gets cerebral about it. The sixth inning was finished in just seven pitches which came via three quick outs in-play and a very nice diving catch by Juan Soto. Yes, defense matters.
“We talk about it every day: Come out and try to get that lead early,” manager Dave Martinez said. “You put the pressure on the other team, and we did that today.”
Getting the early lead is the key for this team. It was something the Nats failed to do in the first three games of that Atlanta series when they had and botched multiple opportunities. Tonight, they pounced early and often. The offensive star of the night was Ryan Zimmerman who had three hits including a two-run home run and three RBIs. Howie Kendrick also had three hits, and the final run came off of the bat of Trea Turner who crushed a ball 436 feet.
Besides Doolittle in the bullpen, Wander Suero, Fernando Rodney, and Daniel Hudson all got the job done, and besides Doolittle, none of the other bullpenners had a clean outing but no runs were given up. Of note, that was Hudson’s first appearance since September 3rd, and while he had to shake some rust off, he got the job done.