- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
Strasburg’s gem, Flores’ homer lift Nationals over Braves
The rain came pouring down upon him. A small cell that parked itself over Nationals Park just before 8 p.m. Tuesday night threatened to derail him. It threatened to knock him out of a pivotal divisional game far earlier than the Washington Nationals or their ferocious right-hander would’ve liked.
Stephen Strasburg is already a man living through a season with an expiration date. The number of times he’ll be able to take the mound in 2012 and dazzle, the way he did in the Nationals’ 4-1 series-clinching, division lead-expanding victory over the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night, is dwindling.
So as the teams were sent off the field in the third inning, the deluge lasting for the better part of the next 51 minutes, Strasburg was determined not to let this game get away from him.
“He learns every time out,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said before the game. “That’s exciting to me. And it should be exciting to everyone else, instead of worrying about when he’s getting shut down. He’s a remarkable young arm.”
On the advice of pitching coach Steve McCatty, Strasburg threw in the batting cage while the teams waited out the storm. He unleashed 10-15 pitches in two separate sessions, each time returning to the clubhouse for an update and kept his arm ready for the restart. Anything longer than an hour and his night would be finished. He was saved by nine minutes.
And then he proved his manager prophetic.
When play resumed, Strasburg put on a display of dominance so impressive multiple Braves hitters buckled or pulled back from the plate, only to strikeout looking. In six innings in which he flashed everything — fastball, curveball, changeup — with near unhittable precision, he offered the latest reminder of the complex nature of his season.
While his talent will likely leave the Nationals dying to see more this season, it’s that same otherworldly ability they are wary of pushing to the breaking point.
“He was totally locked in tonight,” said catcher Jesus Flores, whose three-run homer in the fifth gave Strasburg the cushion he and the Nationals’ bullpen would need to secure the ace’s 15th win of the season and secure a seven-game lead in the National League East.
“I loved it. It was really fun to catch him.”
If part of the enjoyment in watching Strasburg pitch is that evolution, Tuesday night was one of the most enjoyable nights of the season for the Nationals and their fans. He worked through the first real rain-interrupted start of his career and returned to the mound stronger than he was in the 2 ⅔ innings before the weather arrived. His fastball buzzed on the black. His changeup devastated hitters. And he felt the curveball was better than both.
Staked to a1-0 lead on Ian Desmond’s 19th home run of the season in the second inning, Strasburg began to dominate. He struck out six of the first eight batters he faced after the delay and 10 overall. He helped the Nationals keep their foot on the throat of their only remaining divisional competition.
“From what I’ve seen, Stephen always seen performs better when situations like that arise,” Desmond said. “When it’s kind of backed up against him.
“Changeup, curveball, fastball, you name it. There were all devastating. One of the more impressive things I’ve seen out of him.”
After three sometimes-dicey but scoreless innings of relief from Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, the Nationals had another win. Another statement. Another step toward their ultimate goal. And one start closer to the day they’ll be without Strasburg.
These are not his playoffs, he said, as the subject his unknown limit hung in the air. “I’m going to keep pitching, and I’m in it with these guys for the long run.” But savoring them anyway couldn’t hurt.
“It’s funny,” he said. “Nobody talks to me personally about it. So obviously I can either scour the internet and watch all the stuff being said on TV, or I can just keep pitching and watch the Golf Channel, I guess.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
- What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?
- As Nationals' manager search begins, Randy Knorr the players' choice
- Davey Johnson's big-league journey ends with Nationals loss
- Team spirit and Holy Spirit — for Nationals religion looms large on and off the field
- Jordan Zimmermann falls short of 20th win as Cardinals prevail again
Latest Blog Entries
- A fond farewell, and a bit of thanks
- Nationals coaches wait in limbo as team searches for next manager
- Davey Johnson won't be in uniform for Nationals in spring training
- Tanner Roark starts season finale with youthful lineup behind him (UPDATED)
- Dan Haren, Nationals top Diamondbacks in season's penultimate game
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- EDITORIAL: More Lerner smoking-gun emails at IRS
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- 'Deport Bieber' petition draws no comment from White House
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.