Stephen Strasburg seemed to be in control for the first six inning of Monday’s game with the Atlanta Braves, but the young star gave up four earned runs in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals fell 5-0. He was admittedly battling through his most difficult start of his young career, but he learned a valuable lesson about keeping your focus late.
The rookie was battling the first place Atlanta Braves, who have been outstanding at home with a 27-8 record. The Braves scored all their runs in the seventh, when Strasburg gave up a lead-off walk to Chipper Jones. Strasburg relied mostly on his fastball and change up during the game, leaving behind his curveball early in the game.
“I don’t think I threw as many breaking balls as I have,” he said. “You have to have that up here, because they square up on your fastball.”
Strasburg was clocked again at 100 mph with his fastball, and seven batters fell victim to the strikeout. He needs just two K’s to tie the Major League record set by Herb Score for most strikeouts in his first five starts. After winning his first two starts, Strasburg has two losses and a no decision.
The National’s offense didn’t offer Strasburg much support Monday. They were shut out by Tim Hudson and Jonny Venters. They have scored just one run in the rookie’s last three starts.
Legendary manager Bobby Cox is as impressed with the former San Diego State standout, and says his off-speed pitches are Strasburg’s strength.
“He’s as advertised,” Cox said. “He’s dynamite. He’s great. He’s got maybe the best change up for a first-year player I’ve ever seen.”
The Braves have a rookie phenom of their own in Jason Heyward, who is making his case for National League Rookie of the Year honors. He is the rookie of the month in June, but will be forced to the disabled list with a deep bone bruise until the All-Star break.
Cox also announced the movement of Kenshin Kawakami to the bullpen. Kris Medlen has earned the chance to stay in the rotation when Jair Jurrjens comes back from a hamstring injury.
Hudson only gave up five hits and felt sorry for the young rookie, who is getting attention from just about every major media outlet.
“It may seem weird to say I feel sorry for him, but it’s unfortunate that a rookie can’t stay under the radar forever,” Hudson said. “Every team is coming at him with their ‘A’ game. He’s the hot rookie who’s supposed to beat you.”
MLB sportsbooks have set the Braves as the favorites to win the second game of the series with the Nationals at -200. The Nationals are set as the underdogs at +170. The over/under set for total runs scored by both teams in the game is set at 9.