Nats defense hurts Strasburg, then bails him out (Strasburg leaves with lead)

The Nationals have made two errors behind Stephen Strasburg today, both of which left him in jams with runners at the corners and two outs.

Both times, Strasburg worked out of trouble to keep the game scoreless. The Nationals’ ace can thank Bryce Harper for helping bail him out of the second such situation.

Three batters after Ryan Zimmerman airmailed a throw into the stands to allow Allen Craig to reach on a two-base error in the fourth inning, Bryan Anderson lifted a fly ball to medium right-center field which Harper charged and settled behind.

Apparently having not read the scouting report, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo had Craig try and tag up and score. Harper’s strong one-hop throw beat Craig to the plate by five feet, however, and Kurt Suzuki laid the tag on him for the third out of the inning.

Suzuki then followed by smacking a solo homer to right in the bottom of the fourth, breaking a scoreless tie and giving the Nats a 1-0 lead. It’s Suzuki’s second home run since joining the Nats, both of which have come in his last four games.

Harper’s outfield assist was his sixth of the season, the most among National League rookie outfielders. It was a heck of a throw from a guy with an absolute cannon.

Zimmerman’s error, however, was another example of his throwing motion becoming an issue of late.

I wrote yesterday about Zimmerman having problems with the accuracy of his throws when he has time to gun it across the diamond. Again today, he had plenty of time to try and throw out Craig, but ended up chucking the ball way over the head of first baseman Chad Tracy.

Manager Davey Johnson said yesterday he wasn’t very concerned about Zimmerman’s rising error total due to the throwing issues, but if this continues to pop up down the stretch, that concern level might rise.

Update: Suzuki has been the offensive star of this ballgame, delivering an RBI single to center in the sixth to make it a 2-0 Nats lead.

He has the only two RBIs put up by either team today, and made a heck of a pick and tag on that Harper throw, as well.

Strasburg, meanwhile, is done after six dominant innings of work today. He held the Cardinals scoreless, allowed just two hits and a walk and struck out nine. The righty threw 97 pitches, 65 for strikes.

He’s now at 156 1/3 innings on the season. It’s possible that the next time Strasburg takes the mound this season will be his last of the 2012 campaign.

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