Toward the end of last season, Stephen Strasburg and some of the team’s fan base pleaded with the Washington Nationals organization to put the ball in the pitcher’s hands rather than shut him down early as a preventative measure following Tommy John elbow surgery.
Now with those health concerns behind them and expectations stacked high before them, Strasburg appears to have gained the trust of his coaches. But even with the ball in his right hand, the 24-year-old hasn’t had the same control over the scoreboard as the Nationals have struggled to provide run support.
In Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Arizona, Strasburg pitched seven innings and threw 113 times, marking his first 100-plus pitch outing since May 26. But as he struck out four batters and scattered six hits, Washington’s offense couldn’t capitalize, stranding eight runners on base and going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
“Stras pitched a good ball game,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “We just kind of sputtered on scoring runs. … Too many good hitters in the lineup that are just not…”
Johnson’s voice trailed off, affirming the inexplicable inability of a team to back up its pitcher after proving so potent offensively last season (4.5 runs per game). Entering Thursday’s game, Strasburg was ranked last in the MLB in run support with just 2.7 runs per start. That minimal production continued in the loss on a night when Strasburg said he felt “really good.”
“I think it’s making me a better pitcher. I’ve learned a lot already,” Strasburg said of pitching with little run support. “I think the one thing I’ve learned is you can’t go out and try to do too much, you can’t go out there and try to pitch to the scoreboard. Once you do that, you’re done.”