Strasburg delivers on pregame plan he told Desmond

Shortstop Ian Desmond was able to put the game away with a grand slam in the eighth inning Thursday as the Nationals beat the Marlins 7-1 to sweep the three-game set.

“I had been scuffling all day,” Desmond said. “I knew that going in, they had been putting some quality at bats off of us late in the games. They made it interesting yesterday, back and forth.

Ian_Desmond-sidebar.jpg“Just really wanted to get one there. Kind of been a little bit sped up. Constantly trying to make adjustments the last few days and got the barrel to that one.”

Desmond said the grand slam was nice, but the team was already up 3-1. He felt Aaron Barrett’s strikeout of Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton was a huge moment in the top of the eighth with the Nationals clinging to a 2-1 lead.

“(The real) come-through would have been what Aaron Barrett did,” Desmond said. “Stanton up at the plate, rookie up there pitching. He went after him and he beat him, which is good for him, a confidence builder, something to draw back on.”

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg went 6 2/3 innings for his first victory of the season, striking out 12 batters. Desmond said Strasburg told him his strategy for the matchup prior to the start. And then Strasburg delivered on that plan.

“Strasburg looked great,” Desmond said. “We actually talked after his last start. He told me some things he wanted to work on and to see him go out and execute it today exactly to what he wanted to change and what he was going to mess with was pretty good to see. That is maturity. Everyone forgets how young he is. He is going to keep on getting better and better and today was proof of that.

“Just seeing him tell me what he wanted to change and go out and execute it, that is something veteran pitchers do. To go out there and conquer and not get distracted by numbers, you see the strikeout roll going and all of a sudden you try to punch guys out. He goes out there and continues the plan (that) was good to see.”

As a hitter, Desmond said Strasburg is particularly effective when he gets strike calls and swings off of his fastball.

“When he commands his fastball, it makes every single one of his other pitches that much better,” Desmond said. “He doesn’t have to throw it for strikes, they are going to swing at it. And if he does throw it for strikes then they are doubly in trouble. Today was a huge step in the right direction for him. I think not only the numbers, but maturing as a pitcher.”

“I tried to let my pitches go and trust the defense and try to keep it close as long as I could,” Strasburg said. “I don’t need to go out there and trick guys. I don’t need to go out there and be perfect. I just got to attack the strike zone and let my stuff work. Get much better results that way.

“I felt like I was cruising and felt strong. I was definitely seeing the finish line. Got to come out when skip goes out and takes the ball out of your hands.”

If he felt so good in the seventh, did he want the complete game? Of course, but that is not how he goes out to start the game. He knows it is a pitch-by-pitch process.

“You try not to think about that too much,” Strasburg said. “You don’t want to go out there and be thinking nine innings, nine innings. You really want to go out there and go one inning at a time and just focus on every pitch. It is all just about the mindset. That has got to stay the same. I was just glad I was able to go somewhat deep in the game and give them a little rest.”

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