All the talk before the second game of the Nationals-Rockies series that didn't involve Bryce Harper revolved around how Stephen Strasburg would fare in his first start since surrendering a season high seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Milwaukee.
After striking out two in the first, Strasburg didn't look back in what ended up being a 7-1 win for Washington.
"He worked on his mechanics in his side-session," said manager Matt Williams before the game. "He felt as if he was maybe flying up a little bit, which would affect his fastball command. Certainly for him it's important to throw it where he wants to throw it because it opens up everything else in his arsenal."
On a night when Nationals' bats were hot, Strasburg pitched seven scoreless innings before serving up a home run to Rockies' second baseman D.J. LeMahieu in the top of the eighth. He contributed on defense as well, participating in a double play in the sixth.
He even did his part on offense by doubling and scoring in the fourth inning, but gave fans a little something to chuckle about on the basepaths. Strasburg's double could have been a triple, and he failed to score on two separate occasions before a Rendon double gave him enough cushion to trot home from third.
"That was probably the second or third time I've been on base all year," said Strasburg. "It's a little foreign to me. I probably could've [gone to third] but at the same time you know, I guess I just needed that double in my book."
Strasburg exited to a standing ovation when he was relieved by Craig Stammen in the top of the eighth. He gave up one run through 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight and throwing 111 pitches while improving to 7-6 on the year. His four Colorado counterparts, on the other hand, walked seven Washington batters and struck out only six.
"He had a shutout going until his last inning," said Williams. "You want to take him as far as you can take him, his pitch count was a little limited last time out, it was in the eighties last time. But anytime someone has a shutout going like that ... trying to push him through the eighth and preserve that ... I thought he pitched really well."
Prior to the game, Williams didn't seem concerned about how Strasburg would perform, despite Colorado's uncanny resemblance to the Milwaukee team that Strasburg struggled against in his previous start.
"This team's very similar to Milwaukee in that they're fastball hitters and they hunt early fastballs, too," Williams said. "It'll be important tonight for him to have command of that and that can open everything else up for him ... He's ready to go — I mean, he feels good about it."
Williams' words turned out to be prophetic as Strasburg looked like the pitcher that Washington fans have come to know and love.
"I think strike one is probably the biggest difference," said Williams on what made this outing so different from Strasburg's last. "He got ahead of a lot of hitters tonight. His curveball was effective, his changeup was effective, and he went deep in the game. He threw a lot of pitches but he was in command so I think that's the biggest difference, he didn't fall behind guys. For him that's important; that's important for everyone, but especially him."
Though Strasburg was the star of the night for the Nationals, he got plenty of offensive support. The pitcher praised the team's offense after the game.
"I think there's not an easy out one through eight," said Strasburg. "It's good to see everybody clicking and I think we'll be able to keep it going and have more games like this and hopefully stay out of those droughts."
It is important for pitchers to be able put bad outings in the rear view and to move on to the next challenge, and that's exactly what Strasburg did, in style, against Colorado.
"I don't think this was something crazy," Strasburg said. "Everyone has bad outings throughout the course of the year. You've just got to kind of get back to where you want to be mentally and go out there and execute pitches."
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