- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stephen Strasburg kicked around the dirt at the base of the pitcher’s mound as Justin Turner rounded the bases at Nationals Park on Thursday.

“Sometimes you make decent pitches and they hit it, and sometimes you make really bad pitches and they hit it as well,” Strasburg said.

Indeed. The 3-2 slider Strasburg left hanging in the zone certainly wasn’t his best and the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ third baseman clubbed it for a two-run home run in the first inning. In the top of the third, Turner tagged Strasburg again, belting a 3-0 fastball for a three-run home run.

Strasburg settled in over the next three innings. He struck out six of the next 10 batters he faced and allowed just one walk and no hits. The Nationals’ offense tried to make up the difference with 10 hits, but left 12 runners on base. The Dodgers won, 6-3.

The loss snapped Strasburg’s 16-game winning streak — the second-longest in Washington baseball history behind Firpo Marberry’s 17 in in 1930-31 with the Senators. The Nationals’ $175 million man started this season 13-0 with a 2.51 earned-run average — a streak manager Dusty Baker called “one of the best I’ve ever seen, I think.”

That’s high praise from a man who’s been around professional baseball for nearly 50 years.

“I was actually more impressed by Stras today that he didn’t blow up,” Baker said. “It was extremely hot today. He kept the game where it was. During that streak, he was outstanding. You know every streak’s gonna end. It was untimely it ended today, but you knew it was going to end some day. Now, go back to drawing board and start a new streak.”

When asked if he was impressed by such a dominant run, which included holding the Cincinnati Reds hitless in 6 2/3 innings after returning from the disabled list, Strasburg replied, “No, not really.”

“I mean, there’s been games I feel like I probably deserved a loss and the team picked me up,” Strasburg said. “Just couldn’t get it done today, gonna learn from it and get back out there and give them a better chance to win next time.”

Strasburg’s streak is a strong indicator of the Nationals’ 27-year-old pitcher entering the prime of his career — one that began as Washington’s wunderkind pitcher who struck out 14 in his professional debut at 21 years old.

The hype that surrounded Strasburg in his ascension to the major leagues is unmatched, but the Dodgers have their own young stud in 19-year-old Julio Urias. The left-hander, who ranked fifth overall in Keith Law’s top 100 prospects for ESPN, has made nine starts this season.

With the Dodgers limiting his innings this season in an effort not to tax Urias’ arm, he pitched four innings against the Nationals and allowed five hits and one run.

Though Baker played with one of the best left-handed 19-year-old pitchers ever — Hall of Famer Fernando Valenzuela — the Nationals’ manager is still impressed with what Urias has accomplished.

“I’m impressed, “Baker said. “Anytime a guy gets here this early… when you think about where he’ll be at 22, 23, this is what you project at the time. It’s about once he’s a man, what will he become? Not what he is right now, but what he’ll become? He’s on a good path.”

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