The first-place Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins on Sunday by a score of 4-1, with pitching ace Stephen Strasburg pitching 6 scoreless innings while striking out 6 batters. It was a much-needed win for Strasburg, whose last start only lasted four innings after allowing six runs against the Phillies.
It was a great day to be at the ballpark, this being my third visit to Nationals Park this year. The attendance has definitely picked up (as seen by the longer lines at all the concession stands) and there seems to be a feeling of team pride and excitement that I had not really felt in previous years. And this being Michael Morse Bobblehead Day, well what more could a fan ask for?
So the game itself was fine – not super-exciting, yet it had enough action to keep us all engaged. The Nationals scored all their runs in the fourth inning, when Strasburg and Adam LaRoche each drove in two runs. For the Marlins, José Reyes improved his consecutive-game hitting streak to 24 games, second baseman Greg Dobbs drove in a run in the seventh inning, and Ricky Nolasco went 6 innings for the loss (8-11). Those of us who were hoping that Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen would erupt into an expletive-filled tirade with an umpire were disappointed, though he did come out of the dugout once to question a call.
So Strasburg looked good both on the mound and at the plate yesterday, and Drew Storen looked very sharp in the top of the ninth inning to earn his first save of the year. The crowd went wild, chanting “Druuuuuuuuuuuuuuu” as Storen so effortlessly closed out the game like he had done so many times last year (43 saves) before going on the disabled list and not returning until last month. Storen looked like he had never missed a game, and Nationals fans were thrilled. I, however, couldn’t help but feel bad for Tyler Clippard, who had been doing a fine job as closer while Storen was out with 22 saves so far this season. But like last year’s “Clip and Save” combination, Clippard can go back to being Storen’s set-up guy and the fans will stay happy.
With a 160-inning limit (and 127 pitched so far) due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg will likely pitch into the beginning of September. With a record of 12-5, an ERA of 2.97 and a league-leading 160 strikeouts, Strasburg is a far cry from being “pretty ordinary,” which is what Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune called him in a recent article. Don’t be a Strasburg-hater, Phil; the kid is still just 24 years old and has not pitched a full season in the Majors yet. Plus one guy does not a good ballclub make – even when Strasburg has struggled, the Nationals have remained consistently in first place. They will be in the playoffs with or without (OK, probably without) Strasburg, and if they end up playing the White Sox in the World Series (unlikely for either team), we’ll see what Mr. Rogers has to say about that!