Bryce Harper aggravated his bruised left knee and expects to deal with the injury the rest of this season. Ross Detwiler will need to land on the disabled list with a strained oblique and won’t be able to make Tuesday’s start.
“Other than that,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said with a smile, “it was a great day.”
The Nats got eight tremendous innings from Stephen Strasburg and a big five-run seventh inning broke a scoreless tie, lifting the Nats to a 6-1 win in this afternoon’s series finale against the Phillies.
This was probably Strasburg’s most dominant start this season, given his efficiency (he went eight innings on 112 pitches), his high strikeout total (he had nine Ks on the game) and the lack of legitimate scoring chances the Phillies were able to put together. The only run Strasburg allowed all game came in when he balked in the eighth inning, bringing Ben Revere in from third.
“He was going right after them,” Johnson said. “I don’t think he had a strikeout the first couple innings. It was great, he had like about 25 pitches. I said this is great. I could for sure get seven, eight, maybe nine (innings). ... I mean everything was working. Unbelievably good.”
During one stretch, that went from the final batter Strasburg faced in the third inning until the start of the eighth, Strasburg struck out nine of the 13 batters he faced. He allowed just one ball out of the infield during that span, and faced the minimum.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Strasburg said. “I felt like I had pretty good command of my pitches today. I don’t really feel like I’m pitching any different than I did last year, I just got a little bit longer of a leash.
“My fastball command has gotten a little better as the season has gone on and I’ve gotten more comfortable out of the stretch. It’s all about making adjustments. Sometimes you’re not gonna start the year where you want to be, but it’s all about how you end the season.”
Strasburg was locked in a pitchers’ duel with Cole Hamels up until the Nats’ offense exploded in the seventh, with each pitcher putting up zeros through the first six frames. But Strasburg says he didn’t feel that he had to compete with the Phillies’ lefty, who, like Strasburg, is a San Diego native.
“I don’t really look at it that way,” Strasburg said. “As long as I keep it close, just kind of scatter runs. If a guy leads off with a double, just try not to walk the next guy and compound it. I always look to go out there and minimize the damage and get our guys back up to the plate.”
For a while, it looked like another strong start by a Nationals pitcher might go to waste because a lack of offensive production, but the Nats came alive in the seventh. Two runs came in on a Jhonatan Solano slow grounder to third when Michael Young’s throw home got away from Phillies catcher Humberto Quintero. Steve Lombardozzi brought in two more with a triple to right and then Denard Span scored Lombardozzi with an RBI double. That was more than enough support to get Strasburg his third win of the season.
Johnson made an interesting call in the seventh, asking his No. 5 hitter, Ian Desmond, to lay down a sacrifice bunt with no outs and runners on first and second. The bunt moved Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche into scoring position, and after the Phillies intentionally walked Tyler Moore, Solano’s little dribbler up the line set all the offensive action in motion.
“We weren’t doing too good just playing it safe,” Johnson explained, when asked about his decision to have Desmond bunt. “And he actually hasn’t been hitting left-handers as well as I’d like to see, but I wouldn’t have bet I’d have one of my better hitters (Desmond) bunting over a guy (Moore) who’s hitting .130.”
The plan worked out, and the Nats finally scored a few big runs late in a game, something they’ve struggled to do this season.
“We got some awfully talented hitters, we’ve just been in a little bit of a funk,” Johnson said. “I thought Tyler Moore swung the bat, he’s played the last three days, I thought he swung the bat better. That goes for some other guys. Lombo’s been playing great, the hit he got today. But those things, that’s called momentum. Once you start getting a little bit of momentum going your way, that’s what you need.”