CHICAGO - Eight stellar innings, one disastrous inning, given the circumstances.
Stephen Strasburg saw both ends of the spectrum tonight, as the Nationals’ right-hander had dominated the Cubs going into the ninth only to see Chicago put up three runs to tie the game, with Donnie Murphy’s two-run shot pushing the game into extra innings.
“I feel like I can look at it two ways: I can look at that last inning or I can look at all the other innings where I was pitching really well,” Strasburg said after the Nats’ 5-4, 13-inning win. “So I’m gonna focus on the positive. Kind of the story of the year, to be honest. The guy Murphy, I had my way with him all day and then he runs into a curveball so it is what it is.”
Strasburg isn’t lying; he really had done a number on Murphy heading into that ninth-inning at-bat, striking the Cubs’ third baseman out three times in three plate appearances prior to the homer.
When Murphy’s longball cleared the left field fence, Strasburg dropped into a crouch behind the mound, not really wanting to believe what just happened.
“I mean, I’m like, ‘You know what? I’ve been watching the last couple games here and it’s like tough luck,’ ” he said. “That’s something that the other team’s pitch has to deal with, too, so you really can’t stress about it too much. It is what it is.”
Coming off a game where he was ejected just seven pitches into the second inning of a start against the Braves, one might think that Strasburg felt especially strong or sharp today, especially given how he looked through the first eight innings. But that actually wasn’t the case.
“In all honestly, I actually felt a little bit more gassed there at the end,” he said. “I just felt like if I get more consistent (from start-to-start) and throw the same amount of innings, I feel like I get stronger, especially in the later innings. But just a 26-pitch debacle last game kind of set me back a little bit as far as stamina.”
In the end, the final result of today’s game had to make the disappointing ninth inning a bit easier to take.
“A lot easier,” Strasburg said.
He could’ve had things end in the ninth if Anthony Rendon had been able to range into the hole and make a tough throw to get Junior Lake at first for the final out, but Rendon’s throw skipped past first baseman Tyler Moore and allowed the inning to continue long enough for Murphy’s heroics.
Rendon came up as a third baseman and has been playing second with the Nats, but was forced into the shortstop’s role when Ian Desmond needed a day off because of a stiff back.
“It can get pretty tough out there,” Rendon said. “It’s hard moving around position to position, but no excuses. I’ve still got to go out there and do your job.”
“You feel terrible (after the error and the home run). Obviously I had a little slip-up there, but that’s no excuse. I still should’ve made that play. ... It hurt. Especially since he pitched his tail off. He pitched his (butt) off. You know what I’m saying. The fact that we couldn’t give him better run support, we couldn’t play perfect defense behind him, we feel terrible, but what can you do?”
Chad Tracy came to the rescue in the 13th, if a slow-rolling RBI groundball can be considered coming to the rescue.
“Yeah, just touch it,” Tracy said of his swinging bunt that brought in the game-winning run. “Try to put something in play right there. Trying to cover the whole plate with (Cubs righty Michael Bowden). He’s kinda funky and got a good split. He cuts the ball in. Basically just trying to get some contact.
“It’s not pretty, but sometimes you don’t need to be. You just need something to happen.”