“It’s funny, because [reporters] want to make a big deal out of all this,” Strasburg said. “But every game is huge for me. I want to go out there. I want to help this team win. It doesn’t matter who’s facing us. We’re out there as a collective group to try to get the job done.”
As Harvey barged into any discussion concerning the very best young pitchers in baseball, Strasburg plodded through six innings. He allowed only five hits and, because of Ian Desmond’s first-inning error, just two of the four runs he yielded were earned. But a high pitch count limited his effectiveness, continuing an April trend. He owns a 2.96 ERA, with 21 strikeouts and seven walks. The same feeling still gnaws at him: He has not yet operated to his high standard.
“Not good enough,” Strasburg said. “It’s tough. I want to go out there and feel great every time. It was kind of a struggle again. It’s still early. I just got to keep battling, keep working hard. I know it’s going to come.”
The same sentiment applied across the clubhouse. After another lopsided defeat, the Nationals fell to 9-7 overall and 4-6 against opponents other than the Miami Marlins. They have been outscored by 13 runs and have lost by at least six runs four times.
“Any time guys aren’t playing and pitching up to their expectations, players are more disappointed in themselves than anybody,” said third baseman Chad Tracy, who knocked in the Nats’ only run as he replaced Ryan Zimmerman. “I know we keep saying, ‘It’s still early,’ but it’s really early. That’s why we play 162 [games]. The talent will finally show up and the cream will rise to the top.
“We’ve got a lot of improving to do, all the way around.”
With Dwight Gooden watching from behind home plate, Harvey held the Nationals to one run on four hits over seven innings while striking out seven. He fired 98-mph fastballs, unleashed sliders that broke hard and late, twirled tight curveballs and sprinkled in change-ups, just because. For seven innings, Nationals batters took defensive swings against Harvey, as if they couldn’t guess what pitch was coming next and weren’t sure if they could hit it even if they did. He let the Nationals know what other teams felt when they unleashed Strasburg on the league.