SAN FRANCISCO - Good morning from the left coast, where tonight the Nationals open a four-game weekend series with the Giants, another significant test for this team during a long road trip.
(OK, so I need to be honest with you: I’m not actually in San Francisco as I type this. I’m somewhere over the Midwest, 33,000 feet in the air, en route from Cleveland. It’s still Wednesday night. But by the time you read this in the morning, I will be in San Francisco. Promise.)
Before we move ahead and look to tonight’s game, let’s wrap up yesterday’s 4-1 victory against the Indians. Trea Turner and Blake Treinen’s roles in the game were the focus of last night’s story, but there was more worth mentioning in some detail ...
* Stephen Strasburg put together yet another dominant start: seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball. It’s kind of remarkable how much we’re just taking these performances for granted, because they have become quite commonplace for Strasburg this season.
Would you believe this was the ninth time in 19 starts this year Strasburg has allowed one or fewer runs? And that he’s done it in five of his last six outings?
“You think he’s been good before, and then you see the year he’s putting up now,” Treinen said. “Every day it’s a model of consistency. We expect nothing less of him, and I don’t think he expects anything less from himself.”
This was a particularly important performance from Strasburg, because it came on a day the Nationals absolutely needed it. On the heels of back-to-back bullpen meltdowns, they desperately needed a dominant outing from their starter, taking some pressure off their relief corps.
“I mean, this is what you want your big boys to do,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I was asked before the game: ‘How’s your team going to respond today?’ A lot of times, you respond to the guy that’s pitching on the mound. The game starts and stops with him having the ball in his hand on every play. That was huge for him today.”
Strasburg is now 14-1 this season. The Nationals are 17-2 as a team when he starts. That’s what an ace, a stopper does, even if Strasburg himself tries to downplay that notion.
“I try to do that every time,” he said. “If we’re winning, if we’re losing, all I can do is what I can on the day that I pitch.”
* Daniel Murphy hit a home run, his 20th of the season, further distancing himself from his career high in that category. He also doubled in the game and was retroactively awarded a single for a ball he hit Tuesday night that originally was scored an error.
Put it all together, and Murphy is now hitting .354 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs through 101 games. Extrapolate that out over a full season, and he’s on pace to finish with 32 homers and 120 RBIs.
How impressive would that be? Well, here’s the entire list of players who have hit .350 with 32 homers and 120 RBIs in the last half-century: Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Mike Piazza, Larry Walker and Alex Rodriguez. That’s it.
Yes, there’s a long way to go, and no telling if he can keep this pace up. But at the moment, Murphy is doing it, and that’s quite remarkable.
* Jayson Werth didn’t do much in yesterday’s game, but he did draw a walk in his first at-bat, and that extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 30. That establishes a new career-high for the 37-year-old, who continues to put his slow start to the season (and questions about the state of his career) farther and farther in the rearview mirror.