Stephen Strasburg will pitch Thursday night on the Citi Field mound, a plot of land that is familiar to him but, based on his performance the past two years, potentially problematic. Strasburg has toggled between dominance and implosion this season, and the most common indicator of which extreme he will hit has been location – not of his pitches, but of his team.
Strasburg’s splits at home and on the road may be fluky and possible to dismiss, but they are impossible to ignore. At Nationals Park this year, Strasburg is 7-2 with a 2.41 ERA. Opposing hitters have managed a .612 OPS against him with 112 strikeouts and 14 walks over 86 innings.
On the road, Strasburg is 1-8 with a 5.25 ERA, and opponents have an .828 OPS against him with 74 strikeouts and 21 walks in 70 1/3 innings. Twelve of Strasburg’s 25 starts have come on the road, but he has allowed 11 of his 18 homers away from Nationals Park.
Despite the obvious chasm in Strasburg’s starts, Manager Matt Williams believe the disparity owes more to randomness than reason. Strasburg’s worst clunkers have come on the road, which distorts the overall picture.
“I liken that to the early struggles with our defense,” Williams said. “We talked about it. It becomes a point of conversation. I think it’s an aberration. That’s not typical of him. It’s not traditional of him. The fact that he hasn’t pitched as well on the road, I don’t want it to become something that’s more than it is with him or with us. I don’t really think it is.”
Earlier in his career, Strasburg had no problem on the road – he was actually better there in 2012. But the issues he’s facing this year date back to last season. Strasburg went 5-4 with a 1.73 ERA at Nationals Park last season and 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA away from it. Still, Williams said, Strasburg can reverse the trend by simply focusing on each pitch.
“We talk about what he wants to accomplish, and how he wants to go about doing it,” Williams said. “On any given day, regardless of ballpark or whatever, if he doesn’t make the pitches he wants to make, they’ve got a chance to get hits. If he gets balls up in the strike zone, guys in this league have the ability to hit it over the fence, too. It’s about him making pitches, regardless of what city he’s in or what mound he’s on. I don’t think that gets there with him. He just wants to make good pitches.”
Whether or not Strasburg has a problem pitching on the road, the Nationals aren’t going to manipulate when he pitches. Natural regression will fix the issue, or he’ll have to simply get better. He has another chance tonight.
“We’ll give him that ball every fifth day and let him go, man,” Williams said. “Hopefully it turns around his next start, and we’ll go from there.”
FROM THE POST
It wasn’t pretty, but the Nationals savored their 3-2 over the Mets.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 8, Charlotte 6: Emmanule Burriss went 2 for 5 with a double and a triple. Eury Perez went 3 for 4 with a double. Rafael Martin recorded a save by allowing no runs on two hits with two strikeouts in the ninth. Scott McGregor allowed three runs in seven innings on eight hits and a walk, striking out five.
Reading 8, Harrisburg 4: Jason Martinson went 2 for 4 with a home run. Matt Skole went 1 for 4 with a home run. Drew Vettleson went 1 for 2 with a walk and a homer.
Harrisburg 9, Reading 6: Adrian Sanchez went 3 for 4 with. Matt Skole went 1 for 3 with a home run. Paolo Espino allowed four runs in six innings on eight hits and no walks, striking out seven.
Salem 6, Potomac 3: Hector Silvestre allowed five runs in five innings on seven hits and a walk, striking out seven. Tony Renda went 2 for 4 with a double.
Salem 9, Potomac 6: Stephen Perez went 2 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Dakota Bacus allowed four runs in four innings on eight hits and three walks, striking out three.
Hagerstown 2, Delmarva 1: Rafael Bautista went 2 for 5 with a double and stole his 62nd base of the season. Drew Ward went 2 for 3. Reynaldo Lopez allowed no runs in six innings on two hits and no walks, striking out five.
Hagerstown 6, Delmarva 2: Wilmer Difo went 3 for 4 with his 43 stolen bases. Drew Ward went 2 for 4. James Yezzo went 1 for 2 with a double. In relief, Jake Johansen allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings on three hits and no walks, striking out two.
Auburn was postponed.