Right-hander Stephen Strasburg put together one of his most complete outings Wednesday yet, because of the Nationals' anemic offense, walked out with the loss, 4-2 to the Pirates.
Strasburg (5-8) went eight innings and struck out a season-high 12 hitters. He allowed two hits, one run on a homer by Pedro Alvarez, and no walks.
His career-high in strikeouts in a game was 13 at Boston on June 8, 2012.
Strasburg fired 118 pitches, 80 for strikes. His 47 strikeouts in his career against the Pirates are the most by any pitcher against an opponent in their first four starts.
Doesn't sound like a loss does it?
His catcher Wilson Ramos noticed a difference with Strasburg's command Wednesday.
"Outstanding job for him," Ramos said. "For me, that is the Stephen everybody knows, control. He threw a good game today. For me, he is unbelievable right now. (I'm) catching him before the last two starts, and he was a little bit right over the plate. But tonight, he threw the ball pretty good. That is Stephen Strasburg."
Strasburg felt he got better as the game went on, as his control became more precise. Pedro Alvarez's homer, the only run Strasburg allowed, came early on, the fourth batter he faced in the game.
"It has kind of been a battle with mechanics all year," Strasburg said. "For some reason, it just clicks later on every time out. I am just waiting to have the same control I do late in the game from the first pitch on. But I made just one bad pitch, put a good swing on it and that is that."
It was the third time this season Strasburg had gone eight innings in a start. He went eight innings May 16 at San Diego in a 6-2 win, and eight innings May 26 in a 6-1 victory over Philadelphia.
This was the first time this season Strasburg had gone eight innings in a loss.
"You want to be the big dog in the rotation," Strasburg said. "It comes with the territory. Six innings isn't cool anymore for me. I want to go seven, eight and hopefully nine some time."
Strasburg also agreed that his personal win-loss statistics aren't that big of a deal to him. The team win is what he wants, and that didn't happen.
"We want to win," Strasburg said. "I really don't care about the whole wins and losses as a pitcher. I think we need to win some games, and it is getting to the point where our backs are against the wall. We got to do what it takes."
Strasburg said the state of mind of the team after six straight losses is not one of frustration or even one of throwing in the towel. Right now, he said it is about resiliency.
"When things get tough, your true colors really come out," Strasburg said. "It is all about what type of person you are. Are you the type that is going to sit there and look in the mirror and do everything you can to do better out there, or are you going to start pointing fingers?
"I don't think there is a single guy in the clubhouse that is going to point fingers. Every single guy in here is responsible. We all want to win just as bad as any other team out there."
Ultimately for Strasburg, and for pitchers that do succeed at this level, it is about the belief that you can beat a hitter with a great pitch every at-bat.
"I try and go out there and have total confidence every time out even when I am getting lit up," Strasburg said. "I try to tell myself every time out, 'Go out there and pitch like you are the best pitcher on the planet.' "