It did not work out for right-hander Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, after allowing five runs on eight hits in four innings. But his teammates got back in the game and then overtook the Giants 14-6.
“Yeah, it’s huge. They picked me up,” Strasburg said of his teammates. “Obviously, I didn’t go out there and pitch like I wanted to, but there’s going to be games like that and they came up big.”
Home runs by leadoff man Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa set the tone as the Giants piled up a 5-0 advantage in the third inning. Strasburg analyzed what went wrong.
“(I was) making dumb pitches,” Strasburg said. “(At) 3-2, I got to execute a better pitch to Blanco there. Same with Ishikawa, 1-2. It’s kind of, you want to challenge them and stuff, but at the same time you got to really focus in on your spot and I wasn’t really doing that today.”
Strasburg said his attempts to throw inside to the hitters has sometimes turned into the ball drifting right back over the middle of the plate. The Giants were able to take advantage of a few mistake pitches.
“That’s kind of where it misses sometimes,” Strasburg said. “Something I’ve been battling all year. Sometimes my command inside is really good and then sometimes it comes back over the plate. Biggest thing is you just got to go out there and keep pitching and it’s all going figure itself out.”
Catcher Jose Lobaton, who tied a career-high with three hits, said he knows where Strasburg can work to get better command of his fastball.
“Bullpen. That was the key,” Lobaton said. “You go to the bullpen, you working it. Like a hitter, you got a hole some where, you try to find it in the cage or in the BP. Today, he just got a bad day. He can do better. I know he can do better.”
Critical to the comeback, in which the Nationals outscored the Giants 14-1 after the third inning, were hits by Scott Hairston, Danny Espinosa, Lobaton and others. An amazing eight different Nationals players had multi-hit performances Sunday as the team pounded out 18 total base knocks.
Hairston provided one of the games biggest hits, a run-scoring double in the sixth off of Jeremy Affeldt, tying the game at 6-6.
“He’s been really good all year, Affeldt, according to his numbers, but we didn’t pay too much attention to that,” Hairston said. “This team keeps on battling. It’s a lot of fun, especially when we string a couple big innings like that in a game. Today was great and now we got to move on and have a good series in Philadelphia.”
Espinosa collected two hits, including a two-run shot in the eighth that capped off the scoring.
“I felt good. I was patient in my at-bat to get myself to a good count to get a good pitch to hit,” Espinosa explained. “I’ve been working on my swing a lot in the cages and I’ve been feeling good and just sticking to a routine (and) plan of what I’m doing. Obviously, with Asdrubal (Cabrera) doing well for us your not going to get the at-bats, but I’ve continued to work and so hopefully it’ll pay off as I get a couple more at-bats.”
Espinosa might play more this week, and even start Monday night in Philadelphia, after manager Matt Williams revealed that Cabrera experienced some “tightness” in his swing and was replaced in the late going.
“The role this year when guys get hurt, be in there every day and if just have to keep your head up and keep grinding and keep doing what you can to maintain your swing and maintain game speed and everything,” Espinosa said. “I’m happy that I was able to do that today. It was more fulfilling to see the win the way we came back. That was a ot of fun to see that.”
Bryce Harper connected on a two-run shot himself, a liner off the right field foul pole that gave the Nationals a 12-6 lead in the eighth. He said the pulse of the 35,476 at Nationals Park helped the team in their comeback.
“It was unbelievable. Like I said before, about a couple of days ago, we got a lot of heart,” Harper said. “We want to win every single game we got out there and play. We had a great crowd today, they thrived us through the whole game. That’s a lot of fun right there.
“That’s a great team over there in the other clubhouse. Being down five-nothing to them and then them coming back and scoring another run, 6-2, that’s pretty tough. We had great bullpen out there today. They came in and threw well. We just kept battling and battling and battling. Desi had that huge homer off of Vogelsong to start it and the dominoes started falling. It was a lot of fun out there today. Like I said, we had a great crowd and I think they pushed us through right there.
“Like I said before it was epic. I think coming in and being able to do that in this homestand was something that we really needed. Hopefully, we can keep it going into Philly, Seattle and L.A.”
“That was unbelievable. That was unbelievable,” Lobaton said. “I’m catching and you see that score it’s kind of like ‘wow’ it’s not easy to come back like that. We did it. I think the energy in the dugout was really good. I know we got the team that can do that. That was one of the best games I’ve ever played. The way that we came back was unbelievable.”
Hairston summed up the Nationals winning 12 of their last 13 with a key critique. He said the team has grown from the beginning of the season where maybe being down early in games would have forced guys to squeeze their bats a bit more. But during this streak, the guys have been loose and relaxed.
“If somebody doesn’t get the job done, the next guy is going to do it,” Hairston said. “I think early in the year we were pressing a lot, all of us were really trying to do too much. I think that time has passed. We’re focusing on having good at-bats no matter if we are down by five or, up by 10, we just keep going. That’s the sign of a good ball club.
“It is a great homestand. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I think that it’s safe to say nobody has.”