Stephen Strasburg's start to the second half of his 2014 campaign didn't go as planned.
The Nationals right-hander surrendered four earned runs on seven hits, including two home runs, over seven innings in a home loss to the Brewers on Friday. However, Strasburg, who will face off against Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa in the series finale on Wednesday, gave up just one walk and struck out nine batters despite his struggles.
The outing stayed true to Strasburg's performance so far this season. He's on pace to set a career high in strikeouts while issuing the fewest walks of any year in which he's pitched more than 70 innings. On the other hand, Strasburg's current ERA, 3.55, would be by far the worst mark of his young career if the season ended on Wednesday.
It is clear hitters are seeing Strasburg better than at any point during his time in the Majors -- he's thrown 51 fewer innings this year compared to 2013, but is only two hits shy of matching his total allowed last season (136). The question is: why?
"Maybe I'm throwing too many strikes," Strasburg said after his start on Friday. "Maybe I need to be a little bit more effectively wild."
Another reason for hitters' increased production against Strasburg could be the right-hander's decreased pitch velocity this season. Strasburg said he's been content with his fastball command so far this year, but his average fastball velocity comes in at nearly one mile per hour slower than 2013, according to Fangraphs.com.
Strasburg said getting his velocity back is an ongoing process following surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow this past offseason. But he's seeing improvement.
"It feels great and everything, but it takes a little bit of time to get [the velocity] back," Strasburg said. "Not saying it's going to be triple digits, but I think the mechanical adjustments I've made working with [pitching coach Steve McCatty], it's seemed to help me feel more comfortable out there, especially early innings where I can just let it go."
Meanwhile, De La Rosa enters Wednesday having earned wins in four of his past five starts. The left-hander has been particularly sharp over his past three outings, in which he's gone six innings and surrendered two or fewer earned runs.
De La Rosa sports a 4.39 ERA and 10-6 record on the season.
Rockies: Tulowitzki can't avoid DL
The Rockies placed Troy Tulowitzki on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained left hip flexor. It is the All-Star shortstop's first DL stint of the season and is retroactive to July 20, when he left an eventual 3-2 loss to the Pirates in the top of the fourth inning.
Tulowitzki intended on testing his thigh injury before Tuesday's game and avoiding the DL altogether, but he ultimately decided he would need the time off to rest the hip flexor.
Tulowitzki has had numerous issues with leg muscles since tearing his left quadriceps in 2008. Even so, he referred to this year's setback as just " a little bump in road."
"One thing I don't lack is confidence," Tulowitzki said. "When I'm back, I'll be a confident player out there. To be a confident player out there, you have to be confident in your body, so I have to be healthy before I come back. Especially with where we're at, there's no need to rush it."
Nationals: Desmond continues tear
Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond has taken full advantage of the hitter-friendly conditions at Coors Field during the first two games of the team's three-game set against the Rockies.
In the series-opening 7-2 victory on Monday, Desmond went 5-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and three runs. He followed that up with a 2-for-3 performance in Tuesday's 7-4 win.
"I don't think there are really any conscious adjustments," manager Matt Williams said of Desmond, who is batting .373 in July. "I know that when he's going well, you see the singles in that four-hole. You see balls to right-center field. Then, of course, he hits balls over the fence. But when he's really seeing it well, when he's really swinging it well, he hits a lot of singles and balls in the gap."
• Rockies first baseman Ben Paulsen, who was called up to replace the injured Justin Morneau, went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his Major League debut on Monday night. He built on that success by going 2-for-4 in his second big league start on Tuesday.
• Nationals infielder Kevin Frandsen and right-hander Doug Fister twisted their ankles at different points during the team's win on Monday night. However, both players reported no significant injury on Tuesday outside of some general soreness.
• Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was forced to leave Tuesday night's game in the sixth inning after suffering a right hamstring strain while beating out a double-play throw to first base. The team announced that he would undergo an MRI on Wednesday morning.