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Posted at 07:30 AM ET, 05/01/2012

The Nationals rotation keeps rolling, and Stephen Strasburg’s velocity may be going up


I had written a couple of times that their starting rotation would make the Nationals nearly impervious to losing streaks, and their offense proved me wrong in short order. As the Nationals fell into their first slump this year, the starting pitching never wavered. These were the starters’ lines the past four days games, all of which led to losses:

Edwin Jackson: 6 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 6 K

Ross Detwiler: 6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 K

Stephen Strasburg: 7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 9 K

Gio Gonzalez: 6 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 5 BB, 7 K

In sum, over four games, that’s six earned runs over 25 2/3 innings (a 2.10 ERA) with 19 hits, 10 walks and 26 strikeouts. And the Nationals could not win any of those games, which happens when you score 1, 2, 3 and 0 runs.

You would imagine the results may lead to some frustration within the Nationals’ rotation, but they all insist that’s not the case. Pitching coach Steve McCatty constantly preaches ignoring what you can’t control, and they can’t control their run support.

“We try not to think about that,” Gonzalez said. “Our job is to try to keep our team in the game as long in the game as possible. ... I feel we have great hitters. We’re just coming up short a little bit, that’s it. I wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve just got to life up our spirits a little bit, that’s it.”

The main point is, the Nationals’ rotation never stopped their incredible start to the season even during the downturn in the standings. FoxSports’s Ken Rosenthal pointed out that the Nationals, with a 1.78 ERA, became the first rotation since the Cubs in 1985 to close out April with a sub-2.00 ERA. It’s also the best in the majors by nearly 1 1/2 runs.

Bryce Harper’s debut and zaniness of Saturday overshadowed a noteworthy development for Stephen Strasburg. In his first four starts, he averaged between 95 and 95.9 mph with his fastball on a per game basis, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Saturday against the Dodgers, Strasburg’s average fastball velocity jumped up to 96.6 mph.

Pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery, even ones as far removed as Strasburg, continue to build and strength and flexibility, and so the uptick may be a natural side effect of his progress in that regard. It’s also possible the warm weather and the electric atmosphere may have had something to do with the extra velocity. Either way, it’s something to watch going forward.

FROM THE POST

We don’t know if Bryce Harper is in the majors to stay, but his past and performance suggest he could be.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Lidge to undergo surgery

Responding to a losing streak

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 12, Charlotte 4: John Lannan allowed one run in seven innings on four hits and one walk, striking out six. Carlos Maldonado went 3 for 5 with a double. Josh Johnson went 3 for 5 with a walk.

New Britain 1, Harrisburg 0 (12 innings): Daniel Rosenbaum allowed no runs in seven innings and six hits and no walks, striking out five. Rosenbaum has 23 consecutive scoreless over his last three starts. For the season, he has struck out 23 and walked two in 35 2/3 innings. Eury Perez went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and is batting .212. The Senators managed two hits.

Winston-Salem 10, Potomac 5: David Freitas went 3 for 4 and is batting .333. Rick Hague came off the disabled list for his 2012 debut and went 2 for 4 with two strikeouts. Michael Taylor went 1 for 4 with a triple.

Augusta 7, Hagerstown 1: Matt Skole went 1 for 4. Taylor Hill allowed three runs in four innings on six hits and two walks, striking out three.

By  |  07:30 AM ET, 05/01/2012

 
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