Before the game, Johnson said Strasburg would be held to no specific pitch limit. McCatty, however, had a limit. With two outs in the seventh, Strasburg gave up a double to Rutledge. After seeing Strasburg stretch and Desmond jog to the mound, McCatty and assistant trainer Steve Gober ran out to the mound to talk to Strasburg. With his glove, Strasburg signaled for Gober to return to the dugout, and within a few seconds, both Gober and McCatty did.
Strasburg completed the inning by getting a popup from pinch hitter Tyler Colvin, a difficult over-the-shoulder catch by Zimmerman racing into foul territory. A fiery Strasburg yelled in support of Zimmerman’s catch. “That was huge,” Strasburg said.
In the dugout, Strasburg and McCatty had an animated conversation with raised voices. Following the game, Johnson and Strasburg both said the right-hander was fine. But initially, Johnson and McCatty thought Strasburg was stretching the same area of his back that sent him to the disabled list.
“I’m not a kid anymore,” Strasburg said. “The only reason why he came out is because he saw Desi come up and talk to me, but you know, Desi just told me ‘Hey, let yourself pitch.’ You know, I should be allowed to stretch a little bit out there. . . . Obviously he cares about me and wants everything to be okay, but there was nothing to be worried about.”
Johnson sent Drew Storen to the mound for the eighth. Storen, relegated to being a right-handed specialist last week, walked leadoff hitter Fowler to start the inning. The speedy center fielder moved to second on a throwing error by Storen after the pitcher caught a popped up bunt. Storen, who has struggled against left-handed hitters this season, made an impressive recovery by striking out Gonzalez and Cuddyer. “That’s the old Drew right there,” Johnson said.
Rafael Soriano notched his 19th save with a scoreless ninth inning, and the Nationals walked off the field, for the first time in what has felt like an eternity, winners of three straight.
“We’re still not where we need to be,” Johnson said. “Every hitter in the lineup is not where they need to be. But we’re going to get there. I have all the confidence in the world we’re going to get there.”