Strasburg kept game close, but offense and bullpen falter in 7-2 loss

The Nationals were swept in their two-day, three-game series against the Dodgers that wrapped up Sunday, losing the finale 7-2.

Yasmani Grandal and Kiké Hernández crushed homers off of Stephen Strasburg and Yasiel Puig smacked a late two-run shot to put the game away.

Strasburg kept his team in the game with 6 2/3 innings, but four walks and those two big hits were enough for the Dodgers to get the win. Strasburg threw 115 pitches, but the four walks were his most all season and most since May 5, 2017, at Philadelphia.

He blamed his inability to find the strike zone at times and not having pitched in a competitive game since May 12.

“It’s tough having a long layoff when you weren’t really expecting it,” Strasburg said. “I gave it everything I had. It just wasn’t good enough today. There’s going to be another game tomorrow and we just have to keep playing.”

There was concern early in the game after a few Strasburg pitches that he was grabbing his hamstring. Head athletic trainer Paul Lessard and manager Davey Martinez went to the mound. Martinez said when they checked on Strasburg, they found it was because he was sweating so much and was trying to dry off his pitching hand, not grab his hamstring.

“We thought he had a cramp in his hamstring and he sweats so bad, he said he was wiping the sweat, but he kept grabbing his hamstring and we kind of got concerned,” Martinez said. “He threw a couple balls and we thought there was something wrong with his hamstring, so I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t.”

“I was actually just throwing some bad pitches,” Strasburg said. “My hand was really sweaty out there. I was trying to go to the dry spot on my pants, but was getting a little frustrated because I was squeezing it and it was flying out of my hand.”

The longball hurt Strasburg again with two homers surrendered. He has allowed 10 homers on the season in 10 starts.

“I think it’s just mistake pitches,” Martinez said. “When you make a mistake to good hitters, you’re going to get hurt. But once he realizes it and goes through the game, Grandal, after that, he really didn’t get much to hit. But he gets it. He’s a horse.”

Trea Turner was the lone bright spot for the Nats offensively, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer.

“I feel like I’m still making good decisions at the plate,” Turner said. “I got in better counts to hit than I did yesterday, so I just kind of see how the game goes and see how they pitch and hopefully have some success.”

But the Nats were held to only four hits, going three-up and three-down four times.

Martinez has noticed his players getting anxious at the plate and not prolonging at-bats. He was impressed with Dodgers lefty starter Alex Wood, but also knows his offense can do better.

“As the games progress, we got to start taking our walks again,” Martinez said. “For me, our offense, if they’re just going to walk us, walk us. Don’t start chasing. Take our walks and get on base for the next guy.”

Martinez said he has recognized this bad habit start to come into play over the last few games.

“I noticed we started swinging at pitches outside the strike zone,” he said. “We just got to concentrate on taking our walks, get on base for the next guy. We got to create length in our lineup and that’s one way to do it.”

Soto-Swings-White-Nats-Sidebar.jpgNineteen-year-old Juan Soto made his major league debut with a pinch-hit appearance against Dodgers right-hander Eric Goeddel to lead off the eighth. Soto got a good swing on a fastball that he fouled back and then struck out on a changeup. Martinez liked the at-bat.

“Yeah, we told him if they were going to bring in the righty, he was going to hit,” Martinez said. “Just go up there, get your hacks and hopefully you get on base to lead us off. I like his swing, I really do. He just missed a fastball, fouled it back. The thing about his swing is he stays through the strike zone a long time. But I like him.”

The Nationals bullpen took another hit after the game when the club announced that right-hander Ryan Madson is going to the 10-day disabled list with a pectoral strain, retroactive to May 17. No corresponding move to fill the roster spot was made.

“It was a couple days ago, so we’ve been keeping an eye on it,” Martinez said of Madson’s injury. “He said he felt a little better. But just to be safe, we want him healthy.”

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