Williams on the Strasburg-Lobaton battery and Frandsen

Stephen Strasburg’s numbers this season are noticeably different when Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton are behind the plate this season.

In 14 starts throwing to Ramos, Strasburg has a 3.30 ERA. In 11 starts with Lobaton at catcher, Strasburg has posted a 2.94 ERA.

So as the Nationals right-hander takes the mound tonight in Seattle, he’s again paired with the backstop with which he’s had the most success - Lobaton. This marks Strasburg’s fourth consecutive start with Lobaton serving as catcher.

jose-lobaton-looks-up.jpgEven though that’s the case, manager Matt Williams brushed aside the notion that Lobaton has become Strasburg’s personal catcher.

“No, I don’t think so. I think it’s kind of the way it falls, too,” Williams said before Saturday’s game at Safeco Field. “Wilson hit a couple of homers last night, we have a lefty going (for Seattle). It gives us an opportunity to DH him today, looking at tomorrow. So that’s kind of the way it’s fallen today. And it’s been a little bit of Wilson’s workload, too. So I know Loby’s caught (Strasburg) and he’s had some good games, but as far as a personal catcher situation - no. It doesn’t always fall that way anyway. So we’ll just see how it goes from here on out, but I wouldn’t classify it as he’s going to catch when he pitches.”

While Williams acknowledged that Strasburg and Lobaton have a good rapport, he indicated that it’s no different from the relationship Strasburg has with Ramos.

“It’s been the same for everybody. It’s not any different than the rapport between Stephen and Wilson,” Williams said. “So it’s just the way it’s fallen. Today’s example is kind of prime to the way it has fallen. It gives Wilson the chance to DH today against the lefty.”

In Lobaton’s first year with the Nats, he has returned to more of a traditional backup role with Ramos getting the bulk of the work when healthy. This will be Lobaton’s 57th appearance in 144 games and just his 51st start. He’s on pace to play in 64 games with 57 starts for his lowest totals since 2012. Last season, he played in 100 games, making 76 starts for Tampa Bay.

Lobaton is recognized more for his defensive work than his bat, and that has held true. With inconsistent work this year, he is hitting .222/.286/.300 with eight doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Williams has been pleased with how Lobaton has performed in the field, however.

“I think he’s done well,” Williams said. “It takes some time to get to know guys - what they like and what they don’t like - and that’s an ongoing process through the first year. But I think he’s played well. He’s played good back there and the more at-bats he gets, the better timing he has, of course. Unfortunately, when you’re the second guy, you don’t get as many as the first guy does. So it’s hard to keep timing and offensively be sharp. But I think he’s done fine.”

Also before Saturday’s game, Williams discussed the contributions of utility man Kevin Frandsen, who has provided the Nats with a boost as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement.

Frandsen is batting .268/.302/.366 with a double, a homer and two RBIs in 43 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. Since July 31, he has been especially valuable in a reserve role, posting a .389/.395/.472 slash line with three doubles, five RBIs and four runs scored in 38 plate appearances. Most of his recent production has been off the bench, as he’s started just six of his 19 games during that stretch.

“He’s just ready to play,” Williams said. “He comes out and works early every day - every day that he can work early - and he’s done that in multiple positions. He’s played third, he’s played first, he’s played second, he’s played left. So he’s versatile in that regard and he can play anywhere on the diamond, and he’s just concentrating on giving professional at-bats. So he can do a lot of things with the bat. He can move a guy, he can bunt, we can hit-and-run with him, he can get a base hit leading off an inning. He can do a lot of things. A very valuable piece of the team.”

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