Strasburg was only able to finish 5 1/3 innings, but he kept the Mets at bay, allowing only two runs. Then, the bullpen was able to take over. The much maligned bullpen surrendered only two runs over 4 2/3 innings to keep the Nationals in front.
Manager Dusty Baker was proud of his releivers, who have struggled with consistency for most of the season.
“Our bullpen did a great job because they got 11 outs,” Baker said. “That’s a lot of outs for your bullpen. Wanted Stras to get the victory. He kind of ran out steam there in that one inning, but good thing we added on. We got a couple of runs in the ninth, which is big and end up being insurance runs.”
But the showcase for the bullpen on this night was the five outs recorded by Enny Romero. The game ended with Romero forcing Yoenis Céspedes into a 5-4-3 double play.
The pressure was on for Romero after Céspedes hit a solo homer off Joe Blanton to lead off the eighth.
Lobaton said Romero’s fastball was the key pitch against Céspedes.
“We talked a little bit,” Lobaton said. “Enny got a pretty good fastball and a pretty good breaking ball. He didn’t throw many breaking balls, but we know that he got it anytime. With (Michael) Conforto, we knew we were going to do something inside and outside, moving it around. Same thing with Céspedes, go away and go in. And we threw some breaking balls ... We got a groundball, so that’s good for Enny. He’s been doing really good.”
Romero broke down his strategy against the Mets’ Céspedes with one out in the ninth.
“I threw a two-seamer outside, the first one,” Romero said. “And then I threw another two-seamer down and he swung at it for the double play. That was the key: away, away. Because I have a lefty on deck.”
Baker faced a difficult decision in the final frame. Romero had already recorded three outs bridging the eighth and the ninth. The Nats had been unable to get Céspedes out the entire game. The manager stayed with Romero.
“Enny, he threw lights-out. He’s finding the plate,” Baker said. “He’s getting his breaking ball over. He already has an electric fastball. That was big because Céspedes had already had four hits. Had to make a decision, do we let him face Céspedes? That was a real dangerous hitter.
“And then we (go) to a righty and they have (Jay) Bruce up next. They got (Wilmer) Flores, who can leave the park. Then they got (Lucas) Duda up next that can leave the park also. There’s always a time of decision. Fortunately for us, Enny did his job today.”
Lobaton came up big on offense with his second homer of the season to make it 2-0 in the second inning. Coincidentally, both homers have come here at Citi Field.
He entered the game batting .127. He finished up with two hits, a walk, the homer and two runs scored. Strasburg could sense that Lobaton’s rough start was bringing him down.
“It was definitely wearing on him a little bit,” Strasburg said. “I think he goes out there and plays hard every day. It’s tough to kind of get in a rhythm in his role and everything like that. It’s nice hitting behind him because I get to watch him hit a homer and get a walk and a big base hit there. So it takes the pressure off me.”
Lobaton said he felt a sigh of relief to finally contribute again offensively.
“It was a better feeling for me,” Lobaton said. “I’ve been struggling hitting. Sometimes in those moments you can’t breathe, well this is a moment when I’m kind of letting everything go and thinking positive. I’ve been positive, so this is a good thing for me. I’ve always been positive no matter what happened. And today was a great day. A great day for the team. That was a great win.”
Strasburg (8-2) was tested for long innings against the Mets, but allowed only two runs while striking out five and walking two. He finished with 106 pitches, 68 for strikes.
It was the second straight start in which Strasburg failed to complete six innings. In 14 starts this season, he has completed at least six innings on 11 occasions.
“I was kind of scuffling out there today, you know, just kept trying to make pitches,” Strasburg said. “Sometimes it would show up, sometimes it wouldn’t. But you’re gonna have games like this, you just gotta keep it close, and the offense and the bullpen picked me up today.”
The Nats helped their pitchers out with four double plays. The defense has now recorded seven double plays against the Mets over the last two games.