Scoreless streak ends, but Strasburg still in top form

It was a particularly cruel way for the streak to end, with a teammate doing everything he could to make a highlight-reel play only to have the ball bounce off his glove and fall to the ground as a runner crossed the plate.

Stephen Strasburg hadn’t given up a run in 35 innings. And that’s how an opponent finally did it to him?

“Nah, it was going to happen eventually,” the right-hander shrugged. “I was just trying to minimize the damage.”

Strasburg-Throws-Camo-Uniform-Side.jpgStrasburg did minimize the damage Sunday night. That run the Dodgers scored in the top of the second on Logan Forsythe’s drive off Michael A. Taylor’s glove in deep left-center proved to be the only run they scored off him all night. And that was far more important than the end of a franchise-record scoreless streak.

Still, of all the ways for Strasburg to give up his first run since Aug. 19 in San Diego, this was a tough way to watch it happen.

Strasburg got himself into a jam after Yasiel Puig led off the second with a single to center and then stole second base. But he nearly escaped when he snagged Curtis Granderson’s comebacker and then for Yasmani Grandal to fly out to deep right field.

Forsythe, though, made solid contact himself with two outs, driving the ball to deep left-center. Off the bat, it looked like it would cause major damage, but then Taylor tracked it down with impressive closing speed, putting himself in a position to make the catch as he has done so many times this season. Except as he slowed down and stuck his glove out, he failed to complete the play.

It was ruled a double by the official scorer, though Taylor’s facial reaction immediately afterward suggested he knew he should have made the catch.

Strasburg, though, placed no blame on his center fielder, considering all the ground he had to cover in the first place.

“I didn’t think he was going to catch it,” the pitcher said. “I didn’t think it was going to stay in the yard. I don’t think there’s too many outfielders in the game that will actually get to that ball to begin with. So I think you can just appreciate that, just for how talented he is. To actually get there and have a chance at it is pretty incredible.”

Strasburg could shrug it off because it was the lone blemish on his outing, the latest gem in a string of them that dates back to the All-Star break. Over his last eight starts, he’s now 5-1 with an 0.72 ERA, allowing only 40 batters to reach base in 50 innings, striking out 62 while walking only 11.

This is exactly what the Nationals have envisioned from their No. 2 starter, who is pitching more like their No. 1 starter. Compare these season totals: Strasburg is now 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 4.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Max Scherzer is 14-6 with a 2.59 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 4.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

It’s no wonder Dusty Baker is so excited about his rotation’s prospects for the postseason, with Strasburg healthy and primed to pitch in October for only the second time in his career.

“We’re very confident in him,” Baker said. “You’re going out there with him and Scherzer and Gio (Gonzalez) and Tanner (Roark). I mean, that’s where it starts. It starts with your staring pitching. So if you add a couple runs in there, a couple crooked innings, most games you’re going to win those games.”

Strasburg isn’t one to look at the big picture. He focuses almost exclusively on the little things, whatever he can do to give himself his best chance at pitching well the next time he takes the mound. To that end, he may have picked up on something valuable during Sunday’s start.

The Dodgers, not known as a running team, stole three bases off the right-hander in six innings. The insinuation: They must have been picking up on something in his delivery that allowed them to time their jumps off first base to perfection.

“I’m sure they were,” Strasburg said. “But it’s good that they did that now, so we can do some homework and figure out what they were looking at and make some adjustments.”

Suffice it to say, Strasburg is already thinking about a potential rematch with the Dodgers next month.

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