The type of battle we’re getting between Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels could be one we’ll see many times for years to come.
Strasburg and Hamels have both thrown four scoreless innings today, with each allowing just two hits. Hamels has six strikeouts to this point, while Strasburg has four.
Both teams have put two runners in scoring position thus far, but neither has done anything with those opportunities.
Bryce Harper reached third with one out in the first inning (and he put his banged-up body on the line to do so, sliding into second after a throwing error and then diving headfirst into third on a stolen base) and Strasburg doubled with one out in the third. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche struck out swinging to strand Harper and end the first, while Denard Span and Harper went down in the third to leave Strasburg on second and bring a close to the third inning.
Strasburg struck out four batters in a row at one point, while Hamels set down four Nationals on strikes in a five-batter span.
The only real difference between Strasburg’s and Hamels’ outings thus far is that Strasburg has been a bit more economical with his pitches, throwing 54 through the four innings, compared to 67 pitches for Hamels.
Strangely enough, two of the four hits today have come from the pitchers. Strasburg’s double came a half-inning after Hamels singled leading off the third.
For whatever reason, the Nats have had a big problem retiring opposing pitchers this season. Pitchers are hitting .232 off the Nats this year, more than 100 points higher than the league average for pitchers, which is .126.
To put that in other terms, opposing pitchers have hit for a higher clip than Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Chad Tracy, Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina.
Harper, meanwhile, really appears to still be battling that sore left knee. He bent over at the waist, apparently in pain, after sliding into second and third in the first inning, and then really limped out to the outfield after striking out in the third.
We’ll see if that continues to be an issue for Harper going forward.
Update: Strasburg’s had a few strong outings this season, but this is probably the sharpest we’ve seen him all year.
The right-hander is now through seven scoreless innings at 97 pitches, 67 of which have been for strikes. He’s struck out nine on the afternoon, and all nine of those have come within the last 13 batters he’s faced.
In that 13-hitter span, Strasburg’s allowed just one hit and faced the minimum. He’s facing the Phillies’ B lineup today, but you can’t let that take away from the fact that the 24-year-old has been totally locked in.
His changeup has been excellent and his curve has really been sharp.
Unfortunately, the Nats have barely managed anything offensively, and we’re still tied 0-0 heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Strasburg has two of the Nats’ three hits so far, and Hamels is still in, having thrown 93 pitches through six.