Stephen Strasburg is pitching far better than his record

brushback_harperIn many ways, Stephen Strasburg is enjoying the best season of his career. It just may not appear that way because of a 4-6 record. In fact, his pitching, particularly of late, has been so dominant that, aside from his record, he has a case to make the National League all-star team alongside teammate Jordan Zimmermann. His first half is perhaps even better than last season’s in which he was selected to the all-star team. Consider his résumé:

2.24 ERA: fifth in the majors and NL. (best of his career, excluding his rehab-shortened 2011 season)

.204 batting average against: 12th in the majors, 8th in the NL. (best of his career)

– .573 OPS against (on-base plus slugging percentage): eight in the majors, sixth in the majors (best of career)

1.04 WHIP (walks and hits per inning): 14th in the majors, ninth in the NL. (best of his career)

6.5 hits per nine innings: 10th in the majors, eighth in the NL (best of his career)

.400 winning percentage: 74th in the majors, 36th in the NL (worst of his career)

Asked about his season following Tuesday’s start, Strasburg deflected.

“Still got a long ways to go,” he said. “Not even to the all-star break. Just going to keep plugging along, keep on trying to get better. It’s always room for improvement.”

On Tuesday, Strasburg tossed seven brilliant scoreless innings. It was the 13th time in 16 starts this season that he had allowed two earned runs or less. It was the fourth time he has allowed zero earned runs. Yet, his record stands at 4-6 because of a major league-worst 2.44 runs of support. And it’s not simply that the Nationals aren’t getting Strasburg wins that he has earned, but that they’re squandering his starts completely; the team is only 6-10 when he starts despite his minuscule 2.24 ERA.

“He’s a professional,” Manager Davey Johnson said when asked how the continued lack of runs would affect Strasburg. “He picked us up when we made the error in the fifth or something. Pitched out of a tough jam there. Could’ve gotten out of hand there, but he bowed his neck and pitched great to get us out of a jam. But we’ll score him some runs.”

Each season of Strasburg’s career, there’s an underlying story line that draws attention away from his pitching. Three years ago, immense hype followed him. Two years ago, it was his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Last season, it was his much-debated innings limit. And, so far this year, his season has been clouded, and partly defined, by his lack of run support and wins. In defense of his teammates, Strasburg handled a question about his run support well.

“I’m tired of talking about that,” he said. “These guys battle every single day, just like I do and it just didn’t work out for us tonight. I’d like to get over that. I’d like to stop answering questions about run support.”

FROM THE POST

Nationals again unable to provide Stephen Strasburg with any support and Drew Storen coughs up four runs in 4-0 loss, writes Adam Kilgore.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Wilson Ramos runs well in rehab for Potomac, due back to Nats on Thursday

Nationals sign seven international free agents

Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Gonzalez return to Washington

Nationals would let Bryce Harper play in All-Star Game

Lucas Giolito, 2012 first-round pick, to make season debut after Tommy John surgery

Nationals remove Cole Kimball from 40-man roster

Bryce Harper drops to fourth in NL outfield all-star voting

Denard Span: ‘I’m getting closer to where I need to be’

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 5, Rochester 2: Yunesky Maya allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits over six innings and lowered his ERA to 4.35. Michael Broadway notched his fifth save. Jeff Kobernus, Will Rhymes, Chris Marrero and Chris Rahl each notched two hits. Rahl and Marrero combined to drive in four runs.

Rochester 6, Syracuse 5: On rehab and in his fourth appearance for Syracuse, Christian Garcia started and allowed three runs, two earned, on two hits, walked two and struck out two over 1 1/3 innings. Ryan Tatusko took the loss for allowing three runs on five hits over two innings of relief. Danny Espinosa went 0 for 4, 0 for 8 in the doubleheader, and dropped his average to .094. Jeff Kobernus and Corey Brown each drove in two runs.

Erie 2, Harrisburg 1: Robert Gilliam allowed one run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out seven. Brian Goodwin went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Steven Souza Jr., Jason Martinson and Sandy Leon added the other hits.

Potomac 5, Winston-Salem 3: Brian Rauh allowed three runs, two earned, over five innings. Richie Mirowski, who Nationals coaches have been impressed with, tossed two scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.62. Adrian Nieto finished 2 for 2 with a two-run home run and two walks. His rising season triple slash line: .299/.371/.468 with seven homers. Adrian Sanchez went 1 for 4 with two RBI. On rehab, Wilson Ramos caught nine innings, went 0 for 3 and ran the bases after being hit by a pitch.

Hagerstown 4, West Virginia 1: Pedro Encarnacion tossed seven scoreless and struck out six. Shawn Pleffner hit a two-run home run, Estarlin Martinez went 2 for 4 with an RBI and Khayyan Norfork drove in the other run.

Auburn 6, Batavia 5: Kylin Turnbull allowed three runs, none earned, on six hits over five innings. Bryan Lippincott hit his first home run, a three-run shot, and finished with four RBI.

Also on Nationals Journal

Wilson Ramos runs well in rehab for Potomac, due back to Nats on Thursday