“I couldn’t throw a strike,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”
What happened on the field Friday turned baseball logic on its head. In 10 previous starts against the Marlins, Strasburg had a 2.77 ERA. The Marlins, a young and rebuilding team on a historic pace for offensive ineptitude, were owners of the worst offense in the majors, hitting a collective .232 and averaging 3.27 runs per game.
Strasburg, meantime, appeared poised to build on an impressive first-half résumé. He came into Friday’s game with a 2.45 ERA, allowing opponents just a .209 batting average. He had allowed seven runs in his previous three starts combined. He had been bedeviled by a lack of support, the primary reason his record stood at just 5-6 and likely why he wasn’t originally included on the National League all-star team. But when the Nationals scored three times in the first, everything seemed in place for him to even his record.
“Pretty shocked,” LaRoche said. “I don’t think anybody in the ballpark saw it going that way. We jump out on top, get a pretty good roll going and come back and give it away. That’s tough. That’s a lineup that typically doesn’t score a lot of runs going against one of the best pitchers in the game. To jump on him like that is pretty wild.”
Handed a 3-0 lead thanks to LaRoche’s two-run double and a run-scoring grounder by Jayson Werth, Strasburg’s control was off from the start. Home plate umpire Jerry Layne’s tight strike zone may have contributed somewhat to the problem, but many of Strasburg’s pitches weren’t close. Ramos could see Strasburg’s command was shaky in the bullpen before the game.
“For me, right now, he’s thinking too much,” Ramos said. “He just has to go out there and throw his pitches. To me, thinking too much. Right now, first inning, he walked one guy, he had his head down. I don’t like to see that. But we got time to talk, and hopefully next time will be better.”
With the bases loaded, Strasburg’s first pitch to Marcell Ozuna was far outside. The next pitch was a 94-mph fastball down the middle that Ozuna clobbered deep to center for a bases-clearing triple. Strasburg has fought his mechanics on the mound plenty of times before, but this time he couldn’t recover.