Right-hander Stephen Strasburg looked pretty good again Monday, but allowed three runs in the 4-2 loss to the Rockies in Denver.
A loss by Strasburg is as rare as oxygen at the higher elevations of the Mile High City. It was his first setback since May 15.
Fresh off of striking out the side in the fifth and his team clinging to a 2-1 advantage, Colorado put together three hits and benefited from a hit batter to start a rally that would end up winning the game.
Following a Dexter Fowler triple, Rockies second baseman Marco Scutaro was hit in the helmet by a Strasburg fastball. Strasburg looked very upset as Scutaro laid on the ground near home plate. Fortunately, it appeared that Scutaro was OK as he walked off the field under his own power. Scutaro was replaced by Chris Nelson.
The Rockies continued their rally and scored two runs in the frame to take a 3-2 lead over the Nationals.
So, did the hit by pitch fluster Strasburg and throw him off his game? Manager Davey Johnson did not believe that was the case. Neither did Strasburg.
"I don't know if anything changed about him," Johnson said on MASN's "Nats Xtra" postgame show. "I know he didn't mean to hit him on purpose. That is part of the game. I think he made a couple of bad pitch selections. He threw a curveball. I know he didn't want to throw a curveball to (Carlos) Gonzalez. He got a base hit in the hole and that put (Strasburg) in a little bit of a jam. He (was) still throwing the ball real good."
Strasburg was very concerned with Scutaro and hoped he was OK. What bothered him, however, was later on when he didn't get the call on what he thought was a strikeout pitch to Gonzalez, the Rockies' most dangerous hitter.
"It happens," Strasburg said. "It is part of baseball. Obviously, you never want to hit a guy in the head, but it happens. You think about it for a second. When I saw (Scutaro) walk off, I figured he would be OK. But after that, I made a good pitch 2-2 to Gonzalez that was apparently a little bit in. I did what I could based on the circumstances."
Strasburg was denied in his quest to reach double digit wins early in the week. His six-game winning streak was snapped. But six innings and just three runs can win you a few ballgames if your offense can get going.
"Felt good," Strasburg said. "I went out there and pounded the strike zone, just seemed like they are hitting it right beyond our gloves. It is baseball. They did a good job of battling up there and they weren't trying to get too big, they were just trying to take what was given to them."
Johnson said, once again, you can't pin this one on Strasburg.
"He pitched a strong ball game," Johnson said. "We just didn't do anything against their pitcher. We just got to get something going here."
On Saturday in Atlanta, Strasburg will bring the heat in his second quest for victory No. 10.