Behind a strong start from Stephen Strasburg and continued clutch hitting from Ian Desmond, the Nationals won their third straight, 2-1, over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night and moved, yet again, back over .500. Three straight wins might not be much for a team picked as a preseason World Series favorite, but this marked the first time in six weeks the Nationals (37-36) have strung together three in a row.
“The record doesn’t really indicate it and I’m sure people on the outside probably don’t really take that too seriously, but we’ve been really playing better and running into some tough pitching,” Desmond said.
Strasburg allowed only one run and fanned nine batters over seven innings before exiting after 95 pitches and a heated discussion with pitching coach Steve McCatty. After allowing a seventh-inning double, Strasburg appeared to stretch his right side where he suffered a lat strain that landed him on the disabled list three weeks ago. But Strasburg assured McCatty, Manager Davey Johnson and a trainer that he was fine. McCatty, cautious with Strasburg’s health, already had the right-hander on a pitch limit in his second start back from the disabled list.
“Just like the Mother Hen that he is,” Johnson said of his pitching coach.
Strasburg’s season thus far has been one of almost criminal win deprivation. He has the second-lowest run support of any pitcher in baseball and had just three wins in 13 starts before Friday night, when he and the Nationals were rescued by Desmond’s seventh-inning solo home run.
For six innings against Rockies right-handed starter Tyler Chatwood, the Nationals mustered little offense while Strasburg held down a potent Colorado lineup. Chatwood held the struggling Nationals offense to four hits and one run. In the sixth inning, Washington’s scuffling middle of the order struck when Anthony Rendon, who continued his torrid hitting with two more hits, singled with two outs. Ryan Zimmerman then sliced a double to right to knot the game at 1.
Then, an inning later, Desmond broke through. One of the few offensive bright spots throughout the Nationals’ struggles, Desmond greeted reliever Manny Corpas with a vicious swing that sent an 89-mph sinker into the center field seats. It was Desmond’s third home run in as many days.
“He hit the fastball where it was pitched — it was out over the plate — instead of trying to pull it,” Johnson said. “He’s been good at that. He’s something special, no doubt about it.”
Since Strasburg allowed four unearned runs to the Chicago Cubs on May 11, a game during which his mental fortitude was questioned, he has been near-dominant. He had allowed only one earned run in each of his past five starts, including his injury-shortened performance on May 31. In his second start back from the DL, Strasburg extended his streak to six.