NEW YORK - A starting pitcher’s win-loss record is a reflection not only of his own individual performance but also of his team’s performance, and so Stephen Strasburg could not have improved to 12-0 last night without the help of some other members of the Nationals who made their 3-1 victory over the Mets possible.
Like Clint Robinson, who for the second straight night started at first base in place of the injured Ryan Zimmerman and for the second straight night homered. Robinson took Bartolo Colon deep on Thursday; this time, he managed to turn on a 98 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard and send it soaring down the right field line for a two-run homer that gave the Nationals an early lead.
Robinson’s strategy against the flamethrowing Mets right-hander?
“Swing hard and hope you hit it,” he said.
Robinson’s point was that Syndergaard throws everything so hard (at least until he exited the game in the fifth inning with what the Mets called “arm fatigue”) that you can’t sit on anything other than his fastball. If you sit on a 93 mph changeup, you won’t be able to catch up to the 98 mph fastball. Thus, his strategy was to lock in on one portion of the strike zone and if the pitch was there, whack away.
It worked, and so Robinson once again justified manager Dusty Baker’s decision to start him while Zimmerman is sidelined with a strained ribcage muscle.
Robinson made a name for himself last season as a 30-year-old rookie while filling in for Zimmerman. His overall numbers this year (.222 batting average, .288 on-base percentage, .722 OPS) don’t stand out, but since opening the season 1-for-22, he owns an .861 OPS and has turned in some very timely hits.
“He’s done a great job for us, and he hit a good pitcher out of the ballpark and got us on the board,” Baker said. “He works hard. This guy works hard. It took him a long time to get here, and he’s planning on staying here. They say it’s harder to stay here than to get here. And it certainly was hard for him to get here. That was the most emotion I’ve seen from him in a while.”