Stephen Strasburg tried not to do it, but he still did. He was trying again to be too perfect. He was being too fine around the plate. He told himself not to pitch that way. But it still happened.
In the first inning, the Cardinals were able to put five of their first six batters on. They scored three runs on three hits.
It ended up being the difference in a Cardinals' 4-2 win over the Nationals.
But after the first inning, Strasburg really settled in. He allowed only two hits the rest of the way.
"I think maybe he is trying to do too much," said manager Davey Johnson. "When he pitches like he did after the first inning, he got the ball down, and everything is more effective. He attacked the strike zone. The last time out, he was trying to make the perfect pitch and missing away. It is a lot easier to pitch ahead."
Strasburg knew early he was looking to be too fine.
"I was trying to throw the perfect pitch," Strasburg said. "I tell myself going into the game, 'Don't do that.' I go out there and I do it. I was really happy I was able make the adjustment and get the feeling back. My velocity came back up. I was throwing a lot of strikes and they weren't taking as many good swings."
Johnson said first-pitch strikes were a point of emphasis again for pitching coach Steve McCatty when he game plans with Strasburg. In the first, he was unable to locate a first-pitch strike to four of the first five hitters.
"Cat hammers that in on him," Johnson said. "The first inning (today) that is how he was approaching the other ball games. After the first inning, he made it look easy. He had a low pitch count. He could have gone another inning. It is not just one thing, it is a whole bunch of little things."
Strasburg said it is still early, with the Nationals playing just 21 games and Strasburg having only a handful of starts.
"All I know is I have had five starts in the first month and I am still feeling my way," Strasburg said. "It is all about going out there and trusting your stuff. You can't look at a small sample size and say that something is crazy and something is going on, but I know at the end of the year the numbers are going to be where they are going to be."
And with the offense struggling, it is not the pitchers wondering what is going on with the hitters. Strasburg said they are all in this four-game skid together.
"I am in with all these guys," Strasburg said. "We are all frustrated. We want to go out there and win every game. It seems the ball is not really dropping in our favor. It seems we hit it right to where they are all the time. That is not going to happen for the entire year. We have to keep grinding and stick together and give it everything we have every single day. That is all you can do."