Lost in all the testosterone that was on display at Nationals Park last night was the impressive offensive performance put up by Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went 3-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored.
That type of production hasn’t been rare from Suzuki of late.
Over his first 13 games with the Nats, Suzuki hit just .180 (9-for-50) with two extra-base hits and a .456 OPS.
Over his last nine games, however, Suzuki is batting .414 (12-for-29) with three homers, eight RBIs and a 1.224 OPS.
The 28-year-old spent a ton of time with hitting coach Rick Eckstein his first few weeks after joining the Nationals. The two men worked on shortening Suzuki’s swing, making him more direct to the baseball. That work is paying dividends.
Suzuki will likely be behind the plate tonight as Stehpen Strasburg makes his second-to-last start of the 2012 season, and his final start of the year at home.
I’m taking a shot in the dark here and predicting the atmosphere at Nats Park will be decent.
Strasburg has been up and down over the last couple months, mixing in stellar outings with ones where he simply lacks his good stuff, but that’s expected of pitchers in their first full year after Tommy John surgery.
His last time out, Strasburg pitched a gem, throwing six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk and striking out nine. The outing before that, he got lit up down in Miami, surrendering seven runs (five earned) over five innings with a season-low three strikeouts.
Strasburg will face that same Marlins team tonight, and he’ll likely be juiced up for what he now knows will be his final start in front of the home crowd this season. Nationals nanager Davey Johnson isn’t concerned about any extra emotion or adrenaline factoring in tonight, however. He knows Strasburg’s competitiveness doesn’t waiver from one outing to the next.
“He kind of goes about his business kind of like (Bryce) Harper goes about his - he’s all in,” Johnson said. “Every time he goes out, he’s committed to be the best he can be. He probably puts that standard higher than I like it. So I don’t see him ramping down to the last two, going any harder or any softer.”
All eyes will be on Strasburg tonight. Our chances to watch the 24-year-old phenom this season are running out.
He’s had a few magical moments at Nats Park already in his young career, and we’ll see if he can conjure up another one tonight.