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Phillies 8, Nats 1: Strasburg rocked during ugly loss

May 23, 2015, 6:40 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The less said about this game, the better. But the bosses require a bit more description than that, so here goes…

Stephen Strasburg was roughed up once again, this time giving up six runs (five earned) in 3 2/3 innings that featured a bunch of hard-hit balls, some awful defense and more weary sighs from the right-hander stuck in the worst prolonged stretch of his career. Rookie A.J. Cole replaced Strasburg in the fourth and enjoyed a bit more success, though he still allowed two more runs, including Ryan Howard’s towering homer to center.

Cole Hamels, on the other hand, carved up the Nationals lineup, allowed two infield singles through the first five innings before Yunel Escobar doubled in the sixth on a hard grounder to third that could’ve been scored an error on Maikel Franco. The Nats, who were charged with four errors on the day — and that didn’t even include a bizarre, Little-League-style play in the sixth that was wiped out when Cesar Hernandez failed to touch first base on an extra-base hit to right-center — slogged their way through the rest of the afternoon.

For a team that had won 18 of its last 22, the Nationals probably deserve a mulligan for this unsightly performance. Strasburg, though, has become a major concern, with no definitive answer for his woes.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: Bryce Harper has enjoyed some success against Hamels in his career, including his famous steal of home plate after getting plunked his rookie season. But Harper at the plate Saturday looked as bad as he has in a long time, completely frazzled by Hamels. He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, squaring around to bunt on the first one for some reason. Harper finished 0-for-4 on the day, a rare showing by the scalding-hot 22-year-old.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Just when it looked like Strasburg might be headed back on the right track following an improved outing in San Diego, he regressed back into the form that worried so many observers. The Phillies made solid contact all over the place, often on poorly placed fastballs. That included Maikel Franco’s 2-run homer to center on an 0-2 fastball that was shoulder-high and over the plate. The fourth inning also saw several instances where Strasburg didn’t bother to back up the plate on hits with men in scoring position. He trudged off the mound as he has too often this season, looking weary and exasperated. Given the fact he sports a 6.50 ERA and 1.69 WHIP, the frustration is understandable.

KEY STAT: With a sellout crowd, the Nationals’ average attendance this season increased to 31,913. That’s fourth-best in the NL, seventh-best in MLB.

UP NEXT: The series concludes at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.94) tries to get the Nats back on the winning track against right-hander and noted post-anthem stand-off guy Aaron Harang (4-3, 1.82).

  1. David Proctor - May 23, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    Strasburg pitching poorly is bad enough, but he cost his teammates two errors by not backing up home plate. That’s unacceptable and that’s 100x worse than Harper not running out a groundball back to the pitcher. It doesn’t need to be made public, but I hope and expect MW gets on him about that. Can’t happen.

    The pitching itself, I don’t understand. His stuff looked great to me. 97mph fastball, the curve was sharp. It hasn’t seemed to matter how good the stuff is lately, he’s still getting pounded.

    • NatsLady - May 23, 2015 at 7:07 PM

      I’ll say again, I think Stras is hurt. I suspect the ankle, because of his immobility on the mound, not covering plays, and getting worse by the third inning when painkillers would wear off.

      • David Proctor - May 23, 2015 at 7:14 PM

        If he can’t even run enough to backup a play, he shouldn’t be starting. And I feel certain the Nats wouldn’t be starting him if that’s the case. Maybe he’s not being forthcoming, but that’s on him and he’s responsible for the results.

  2. Eugene in Oregon - May 23, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    Would love to know how, among themselves, Steve McCatty, Matt Williams, and Mike Rizzo are honestly evaluating Stephen Strasburg. But probably easier to get insider details of Iran nuclear talks than to learn what the Nats leadership thinks.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2015 at 6:52 PM

      I hope they are notlying to themselves.

      Someone suggested pitting him long relief and move Roark to starter.

      They wouldn’t have the guts to do it.

    • unterp - May 23, 2015 at 7:02 PM

      I don’t if its two Cy Young awards or one, but Tim Lincecum who owns three WS rings has gone three or four years in a row until this season struggling, so it happens; just has to grind his way out of it…

      • sjm308 - May 23, 2015 at 8:05 PM

        that’s a really good point and we certainly are not going to send him down, but the Giants did remove TL from the starting rotation a bunch of times during his struggles.

        This is way way way too early but how can you even think of having him start a playoff game the way things are right now? I like most on here are looking forward to having him work his way out of this but he is going to get slammed by commenters for sure.

  3. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2015 at 6:49 PM

    11% quality starts is unacceptable.

    It seems like this is becoming his habit.

    McCatty as coach needs to sit with him and analyze each pitch, bring the catchers in too.

  4. unkyd59 - May 23, 2015 at 6:50 PM

    Call me crazy, but I don’t mind having all the wheels fall off in one game… Get it out of their system, and resume with the crooked numbers tomorrow…GYFNGOGOGOGO!!!!

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2015 at 6:54 PM

      A loss is a loss. Just don’t want to see bad habits start.

      Let’s kick butt tomorrow.

  5. natsfan1a - May 23, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    Maybe they can just shower it off, like so much sticky Hershey’s syrup? Heh.

    I guess I picked a good one to miss. Didn’t turn it on until the top of the 7th, with Cole on the mound. Saw the score summary box and thought to myself “Self: This has all the earmarks of a stinker.” Got to see the shutout end and Janssen’s debut and missed the icky parts of the game. I’ll take it. Will be at the park tomorrow and hoping for better results.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2015 at 7:00 PM

      I plan another 6 game winning streak.

      The more concern is 9 starts 1 quality start. A quality start isn’t even quality enough as it allows a 4.50 ERA.

  6. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2015 at 6:58 PM

    MW is either a truth not teller or a fool.

    9 games onky 1 quality start. That is no concern?

  7. Candide - May 23, 2015 at 6:58 PM

    Okay assuming Roark pitches decently while Fister is out and Strasburg continue to have his woes, what’s the argument against leaving Roark in the rotation and sending Stras to Syracuse to work on his problems? Seems to me Storen was pitching better than this when he got sent down and look at him now.

  8. Candide - May 23, 2015 at 7:00 PM

    Ugly news for the Mets. David Wright diagnosed with spinal stenosis, could be career-ending.

    • natsfan1a - May 23, 2015 at 7:07 PM

      That would be a shame. I always kinda liked him. Seems like a good guy, for a Met. 😉

    • senators5 - May 23, 2015 at 9:10 PM

      Sorry for Wright. Met or no Met. He and RZ have had a long-time relationship since their college days and they as players are two peas in a pod.. Hope his career is not over because DW is a quality player and most importantly, a quality person.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 23, 2015 at 9:28 PM

      Good gracious, that’s awful.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 23, 2015 at 9:28 PM

      Good gracious, that’s awful.

  9. natsfan1a - May 23, 2015 at 7:11 PM

    In other news, Matt needs to up his ejection game. Bryan Price was ejected before his game even started. Wowza.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 23, 2015 at 7:14 PM

      Earl Weaver achieved that once, if I recall correctly.

  10. tcostant - May 23, 2015 at 7:33 PM

    Guess you need to send Cole down and get a long man up here for Monday, just in case.

  11. hantiaolang - May 23, 2015 at 8:36 PM

    If Stephen has another clunker next time out, then you need to consider whether something is actually wrong. Injury or not, 15-day DL him and allow him to work on things in Viera, then get some rehab starts while the Nats officially support their “stud who wears 37 (WaPo discussion board).”

  12. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2015 at 9:14 PM

    When something is good you never mention it, so commenting when something is bad is mute to me.

    Once you start commenting when things are good we might take you seriously.

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