Stephen Strasburg had to face adversity of a different kind Sunday and pulled through with his second professional victory. Strasburg had trouble with his landing foot on the mound at Progressive Field, the same spot where Indians starter David Huff (2-8) was also landing, Over time, and according to the grounds crew I spoke to, it happens more often during day games because of the humidity, the clay gave way and Strasburg started to slip.
Even with those troubles, Strasburg was effective, going 5 and 1/3rd innings, allowing one earned run on the Travis Hafner solo HR, two hits, five walks and eight strikeouts. His ERA dipped from 2.57 to 2.19.
Do the Nationals have more confidence with Strasburg on the mound? The team pounded out 16 base hits in the 9-4 victory, with seven extra base hits. In the previous two games of the series, they managed just three extra base hits against primarily Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona.
Ivan Rodriguez’s 2-run double was the decisive blow against Huff, as the Nats built a 6-1 advantage. Rodriguez had four hits in the two games he played in the series. It cannot be emphasized enough how important Pudge is to the success of the Nats this year and guiding Strasburg through both of these wins. Jim Riggleman said this weekend that it will not always be Pudge as the catcher for Strasburg, but it has certainly worked to perfection in his freshman outings.
Drew Storen “bailed out” his teammate as Strasburg put it afterwards by getting Russell Branyan to pop out and Jhonny Peralta to strike out with the bases loaded in the decisive sixth inning. Storen told me he had no landing problems on the mound because he sets up and lands in a different spot than Strasburg.
The Nationals hope this Strasburg win will boost the team into Detroit much the same as his debut did in igniting the sweep of the Pirates last week. The team has a day off Monday to recharge their batteries.
For Steve McCatty, it means he gets to go home as he grew up close to nearby Troy, Michigan. Matt Capps told me he will rest Monday and take full advantage of a rare day off in the middle of the season.
After Sunday’s win over the Tribe, this team has earned it.