Friday, July 16, 2010
The look of relief was apparent on Stephen Strasburg's face.
Cody Ross had just struck out looking on a full count in the bottom of the 6th inning. The Pied Piper of Our Washington Nationals walking to the visiting dugout showing relief because he had wiggled out of another jam this evening at "Joe Robbie, Pro Player, Dolphin, Dolphins, Land Shark, Sun Life or whatever you want to call it Stadium." Relieved he had shut out The Florida Marlins to this point, Strasburg understood he had not pitched perfectly.
But he had left with the lead, again.
Soothed by his Washington Nationals teammates who had plated four runs for him in the top of the sixth--thanks to Josh Willingham's bases clearing three run triple and subsequent sacrifice fly belted to center by Pudge Rodriguez--Stephen Strasburg threw 99 pitches tonight in South Florida and allowed not a single run, both career bests. As he's always done in eight career Big League starts, Strasburg kept his team in another close game. Again, Strasburg gave his teammates every chance to get their offense on track and pull ahead, even while he struggled with his command. And when they finally responded, The Number 1 Overall Pick in the 2010 Draft shutdown The Marlins for the remainder of his time on the mound.
No. Stephen again wasn't perfect. You really had to wonder whether he might make it out of the second inning. He looked ordinary at times. But then he responded like no other pitcher in the short history of Our Washington Nationals. This young man doesn't give in to the pressure of the moment. The guts that this soon to be 22-Year Old showed tonight was telling. Walking three Marlins in the first two innings upset him, but it didn't cause Strasburg to lose his focus.
Lesser players will often be affected by the difficulty faced. Stephen though--just seems takes the game in stride.
Not may players in Major League Baseball can accomplish what Strasburg did this evening. He was visibly relieved to last six innings. He was probably comforted over having left with the lead also. He had to be downright consoled over his offense coming to his rescue, because it's hard to believe Stephen Strasburg subdued a potent Florida Lineup after giving them so many chances?
Yet he did.
When he quietly, but emotionally, walked off the mound tonight at "Whatever They What To Call It Stadium" in South Florida, Stephen Strasburg was visibly relieved. Calmed over a tough job well done. Spelled over the very fact that his offense had assisted him in his quest--understanding in all likelihood that most young pitchers in Major League Baseball do not win such a game. Florida's Ricky Nolasco challenged him pitch for pitch until the 6th frame. The Marlins pressured Strasburg most all evening. At least until Washington's Batting Order relieved Strasburg with some key at-bats to help their rookie pitcher gain a needed team victory.
Final Score from "Joe Robbie, Pro Player, Dolphin, Dolphins, Land Shark, Sun Life or Whatever You Want To Call It Stadium": Our Washington Nationals 4 and The Florida Marlins Zero. Curly "W" Number 40 will go down as a hard fought victory, but what it really proved was that a young man can stand on the mound and face adversity. Stephen Strasburg wasn't at his best, but he still found a way to dominate. Our Number 37 battled his way through his early command problems. He in essence, relieved himself, and kept his team in the game long enough for them to find a way to win. Stephen Strasburg was a better pitcher over the last four innings thrown this evening, than his first two. Watching on TV, it was much like bringing in a fresh arm from the bullpen. Someone completely different to fool the opposition.
Witnessed tonight in South Florida, a young man that continues to impress at a high level few have seen before. Walks don't matter to him. Hits either. What really matters is how Stephen Strasburg responds with runners in scoring position. He's like the shutdown defensive player in football or basketball. The stopper needed to compensate for a less than perfect start.
Stephen Strasburg started for Our Washington Nationals tonight and received the victory. But only after he saved the game with some outstanding pitching against The Florida Marlins when it counted the most. Relieving himself in South Florida, Strasburg gave his team every chance to win and left the diamond in the bottom of the 6th inning after striking out Cody Ross--taking solace he had done so well.
The smile of his face sitting comfortably in the visiting dugout during the top of the 7th inning on MASN said it all. Stephen Strasburg knew he had pitched well enough to win, yet dominant enough with the game on the line to also receive the save. That's the type of relief Our Manager Jim Riggleman would love to send to the mound for every single game. A starting effort which only Stephen Strasburg has proven to be consistently capable of in the short history of Our Washington Nationals.
Game Notes & Highlights
Strasburg final numbers: Six innings pitched, four hits, three walks, seven strikeouts and zero runs allowed. Not pitching his best, Stephen Strasburg recorded his 4th personal victory of 2010 and lowered his ERA to 2.03. Drew Storen followed him with two innings of shutout ball. All-Star Matt Capps finished off The Marlins in a no save situation.
Ricky Nolasco really didn't pitch that bad for Florida. It's just that where Strasburg shutdown The Fish with runners in scoring position, Nolasco couldn't do so after loading the bases with one out in the top of the 6th. Josh Willingham drilled a two strike triple to right center plating Nyjer Morgan, Cristian Guzman and Adam Dunn--all standing-- to give Washington the needed 3-0 lead. Pudge Rodriguez following with a lofting deep fly to dead center off Former National Brian Sanches to give Washington the four fun cushion.
Alberto Gonzalez continued to show his defensive wizardry. For the final out of this game, "The Attorney General" beautifully backhanded a sharply hit ground ball to second base off the bat of Ronny Paulino. The Defensive Play Of This Game so smooth that Gonzalez almost laughed as he scooped the baseball and easily threw out Mike Stanton at second base for the 27th and final out for Florida. Our Number 12's back was completely turned to the infield when he made the short hop catch. Alberto smiling joyfully at the play. His teammates high fiving him as they congregated in the middle of the field to celebrate the victory. That was one nice play.
And finally, only 27,037 the official count in South Florida to see Stephen Strasburg pitch tonight. The smallest crowd to see him start since his call up on June 8th. Watching on TV, it appeared the attendance was much smaller than that.
Tonight's In Game Photos--J. Pat Carter (AP)