We all knew that Stephen Strasburg could pitch. However, against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday he showed he can hit as well. The Washington Nationals ace went 2-for-2 at the plate including the first home run of his Major League career while striking out 8 Orioles batters over five innings to earn the win.
In the third inning, Strasburg singled and would later come around to score on a Bryce Harper triple. Later, in the fourth inning, Strasburg came up to face Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yin Chen right after Nationals catcher Jesus Flores had hit his first home run since August 18, 2011 to give the Nationals a 4-3 lead. Strasburg fell behind in the count 0-2 and Chen was in control of the at-bat. Strasburg then connected on a breaking ball that somehow managed to find its way into the Orioles bullpen in left-centerfield to put the Nationals up 5-3. After trotting around the bases with a bit of an amazed look on his face, Strasburg returned to the dugout. Moments later Strasburg was given a curtain call which he sheepishly obliged to the delight of the 41,918 fans packed into Nationals Park.
Heading into Sunday’s game, Stephen Strasburg was 5-for-40 at the plate with 3 doubles, all of which have come this season. His 2-for-2 performance against the Orioles raised his season average to .375 with 4 of his 6 hits now being for extra-bases. His RBI was only the second of his career and first since 2010.
On the mound Strasburg was typical Strasburg. He allowed three runs, one earned, struck out eight and walked one while allowing only four hits while improving his record to 4-1 on the season. It was the first time that he had faced the rival Orioles and he certainly looked up to the challenge. Strasburg left the game after the fifth inning after he mentioned he had some tightness in his biceps. Manager Davey Johnson didn’t want to take any chances and pulled his ace right-hander. After the game, however, Strasburg shrugged off the tightness, saying it was a result of working too much between starts. It shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.
Johnson was wise to take precautions with his best pitcher, especially with the Nationals currently competing for a playoff spot, the first in team history. With the 9-3 victory on Sunday, the Nationals avoided a sweep at the hands of the Orioles and are now 24-17 on the season and are 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.