Stephen Strasburg retired 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced today.
He then retired just one of his last eight hitters before being pulled after five innings of work.
Strasburg started off dominant, then faded after Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error with two outs in the fifth inning. Following that error, Strasburg walked the Cubs' No. 8 hitter, Darwin Barney, who came into today hitting .153 on the season. He then allowed a two-run double to Edwin Jackson, the opposing pitcher, who didn't have a hit on the season before that line drive shot to wall in right-center.
Three more batters reached base after Jackson's double and two more runs came around before Anthony Rizzo was caught stealing to end the fifth and finally stop the bleeding.
Strasburg didn't get too in-depth about his outing after the game, saying that he attacked hitters the same after the error as he did prior to it.
"It's just like any other situation," Strasburg said. "You want to go out there and pound the strike zone and try and get a quick out."
Was there anything different about his stuff after that error that led to the string of baserunners?
"There's no difference," Strasburg said. "Just got to get another out."
The fact that Strasburg started in such a dominating fashion made the drop-off in the fifth that much more surprising. He notched seven strikeouts through the first four innings and was cruising.
"Yeah I felt pretty good coming out of there," Strasburg said. "Was hitting the glove, you know? I mean, trying to execute pitches. Felt pretty good."
Manager Davey Johnson implied that the issues in the fifth inning were mental, saying Strasburg needs to be able to put a defensive miscue behind him and pick up his teammates. Strasburg said he feels fine from a mental perspective.
"I feel like I'm going out there and pitching well," he said. "Just not happening on the days I pitch right now. It's all going to change. It's still early and all I can do is just go out there and give everything I have every fifth day. Whatever happens, happens."
From third base, Zimmerman said he didn't notice much of a change in Strasburg after the error, outside of the results.
"Stevie threw the ball well today," Zimmerman said. "He threw the ball hard. He was throwing his curveball for a strike. He looked great. Who knows? If I make that play, who knows what happens? But after that, obviously couldn't get that last out without scoring some runs.
"I couldn't really tell you if anything changed after that. I don't really think one play like that, he didn't have a ton of pitches before. Unfortunately after that, they got some hits after that and we couldn't move past it."
Ian Desmond, who went 3-for-4 with the Nationals' only two runs driven in today, was asked if he saw Strasburg's body language change a bit after the error in the fifth.
"It's hard to see that stuff," he said. "It's hard to see emotion and things like that on the field, because I'm trying to watch the hitter, watch the pitch sequence, stuff like that. I would say you guys, the fans, things like that, probably have a little better visual of that than I do. But (pause) it clearly wasn't the same."