Strasburg sometimes has trouble analyzing his problems or tweaking mechanics in the middle of innings because he can’t seem to slow himself down. A bad pattern repeats, often producing 30-plus-pitch innings until he gets back in the dugout and thinks. Then his analytical nature and discipline usually fixes the issue. If he ever learns to do it on the fly, watch out.
After the first inning, Strasburg apparently gave himself that internal lecture. He stopped trying to throw perfect pitches, especially on 0-0, and instead threw strikes with his overpowering stuff. On the last 20 hitters he faced, he threw 75 percent strikes, a huge percentage, and got 20 outs.
“After the first inning, he made it look easy,” Nats Manager Davey Johnson said.
That’s because it was.
Strasburg’s April troubles and the Nats’ five-game deficit to the Braves in the National League East should produce an interesting reaction from Washington fans, despite the lessons of the last year. The Redskins started 3-6, were universally pronounced dead, then finished 7-0 to take the NFC East. The Wizards started 4-28, were declared one of the worst NBA teams ever, then played .500 ball thereafter. When the Capitals had the worst record in the NHL, the general manager was under fire and Alex Ovechkin was washed up. Tuesday, the Caps clinched the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs.
Everybody wants to win every game. But it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. So you’ll excuse the Nats if they note the 141 games they have left, even as they criticize themselves for their pressing play.
“We’re just goin’ through it right now. Can’t get a break. It’s laughable at times. Denard Span hits a bullet and its like [Jaime] Garcia’s glove has a magnet in the pocket,” Jayson Werth said. “We need to jumble it up and we need to switch the mojo a little bit. I think somebody was talking about Phil Jackson the other day. We need to call him up, have him come in here and burn some sage or something.”
Then Werth grew serious. “This team has a lot of guys that are . . . I can’t use the term,” said Werth, who then did use the words, the same ones that Jules Winnfield had stitched on his wallet in “Pulp Fiction.”
“That’s who we are and that’s what we’ve got. When we get up in big situations, we want to do it,” Werth said, meaning do damage, not poke a single to the opposite field. “That’s a double-edged sword for sure. That’s the classical way to press.
“My last at-bat, I said, ‘I just swung too hard.’ I took a little off, softened it up,” said Werth, who then homered into the bullpen. “ ‘Boom.’ That’s always the way.” So, he mentioned it to Ian Desmond and others. After Tuesday’s loss, several Nats stayed late for a mutual gripe session about the evil bounces of the baseball. Now, they may use the “try easier” speech. Whatever it takes until something clicks.
“We wanted those high expectations to be on us. We played for it, busted our butts to get it last year,” said Desmond. “Now it’s 2013 and only April. . . . The grind is what we play this game for.”
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/