Nats' bats back Strasburg's win over Reds
Ace rookie pitches aggressively in hitter-friendly ballpark
CINCINNATI -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg was solid for 5 2/3 innings, and that was good enough to help the Nationals defeat the Reds, 8-5, in front of a sellout crowd of 37,868 at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday night.
It was clear from the start that Strasburg wasn't bothered by the small ballpark, which has intimidated a lot of pitchers over the years. Strasburg said he was used to ballparks like the one in Cincinnati.
"You should have seen the fields that I was playing at in college," Strasburg said. "I played on a field that was smaller than this. I have experienced this before. As long as you execute pitches, it doesn't matter where you hit it, as long as it's on the ground. If they hit it out, so what?"
Strasburg didn't allow a home run, but gave up three runs on seven hits, struck out seven batters and walked only one for his fifth career victory. He allowed one run during the first five innings, which was scored in the third, when Orlando Cabrera drove in Brandon Phillips with a single to left to give Cincinnati a 1-0 lead.
"I saw a lot of good things out of him," said outfielder Jonny Gomes. "One of the things you want to see out of a young guy is his composure. He got himself into some jams and went right to his best stuff and got out of it.
"When you got a guy who throws 100 miles per hour, the majority of the time his offspeed is to get you off his fastball. He'll elevate it or bury it. He was throwing his curveball and changeup for strikes."
The Nationals gave Strasburg a 7-1 lead by the top of the sixth inning. With Bronson Arroyo on the mound in the top of the fourth, Roger Bernadina tied the score at 1 with a sacrifice fly that scored Adam Dunn.
An inning later, Cristian Guzman took a 1-2 pitch and hit a two-run homer to give Washington a two-run lead.
"I was just trying to find the ball and make good contact," Guzman said. "Not everyone is a home run hitter."
In the sixth inning, the Nats broke it open by scoring four more runs. Ian Desmond and Nyjer Morgan drove in two runs apiece with singles.
"When Strasburg pitches, we elevate our game. We have to because he is our horse," outfielder Willie Harris said. "Early in the year, we were not scoring runs for him. We have to score runs for him, and we know he is going to keep it right there."
The Reds made it an interesting game against Strasburg in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Miguel Cairo singled to center field to drive in two runs. Manager Jim Riggleman then came out of the dugout and had a conversation with his ace before taking him out of the game.
Riggleman told Strasburg that if he had to do it over again, he would have allowed him to pitch from the windup instead of the stretch. According to Riggleman, Strasburg's pitches have more zip when he pitches from the windup. Also, it was highly unlikely that Joey Votto and Jay Bruce were going to attempt to steal a base off Strasburg.
"He threw that last pitch to Cairo from the stretch," Riggleman said. "He has a 7-1 lead, men on second and third. We tried to get his attention to step off and throw that pitch from the windup. He may have hurt himself a little bit by pitching from the stretch when it wasn't necessary."
Strasburg agreed that he should have pitched differently to Cairo.
"There are always things to look back on and there may be things you want to do differently, but the bottom line is that we got the win tonight," Strasburg said. "That's what we were trying to do."
Strasburg left the game after Cairo's hit and showed emotion after he walked toward the dugout. According to Harris, a Reds fan was taunting Strasburg, who then said, "Look at the scoreboard."
"I was like, 'Tell him, Stras.'" Harris said. "When you see stuff like that, it shows you that he is getting comfortable, he believes in himself. That's huge for him, and that's huge for us."
Reds manager Dusty Baker was impressed by what he saw from Strasburg.
"He throws a very easy 98 [mph]," Baker said. "Usually the guys who throw 98 have a lot of effort involved, but he had very little effort and very good delivery, good breaking ball. And, yeah, you can tell this guy is going to be very good."
The Reds added runs in the seventh and eighth, on Votto's groundout off Sean Burnett and Chris Heisey's single off Matt Capps.
Harris added some insurance with a solo homer in the ninth.
"It was big. It gave us a little bit of breathing room," Harris said.
With the victory, the Nationals ended a four-game losing streak and improved their record to 41-54.