Strasburg, Nats lack their usual pop and the Cardinals make them pay

But his order never came. Neither the usual speed nor the jump of his fastball. His final line was a reflection of the Washington Nationals’ 14-3 defeat by the Cardinals: four innings plus three batters, eight runs – seven earned and three allowed by reliever Luis Avilán after his elimination – with eight hits and five walks. The Cardinals ended the game with a fifth run which, like everything, began Tuesday with Strasburg on the hill.

“Nothing in particular,” said Strasburg, explaining why he was struggling so much. “I think it’s only April and you have to get into a routine, get into a five-day rotation and go out there and make the adjustments in between.”

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He got no momentum and missed until his 51st pitch. His average fastball start speed of 90.6 was significantly slower than his season debut last week (92.7). Once, after Nolan Arenado and Carpenter had marked him with two homers on the third, he sat down on a folding chair in the tunnel and rubbed his right shoulder and neck. He would start two more innings.

“We watched him, he didn’t complain about anything,” said manager Dave Martinez. “For us, that’s part of the process. He hasn’t served in a year. We have to get him out of there. We have to stretch it out, we have to build it up. “

When asked about the televised recording of Strasburg rubbing his shoulder, Martinez said he didn’t hear about it until after the game. He explained that pitchers “do all sorts of things in the tunnel down there” and attributed Strasbourg’s struggles to being “a little wrong” with its mechanics.

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The manager claimed Strasburg did not mention any pain in his shoulder or neck.

“In all honesty, this shot shouldn’t have been shown. So I’m a little worried about it, ”said Martinez, referring to footage from the Cardinals show, as there are no visiting teams on site this season. “This camera shouldn’t be down in this tunnel.”

This would cause concern for any pitcher on a seven-year contract worth $ 245 million. At Strasburg, any shakiness is compounded by a long history of injuries. He underwent carpal tunnel surgery last August and missed most of the season. That spring he took a short break by breaking the plantaris tendon in his left calf (a musculist told him he didn’t need it). His career is otherwise filled with such examples.

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He’s already made a dominant debut this month and made the hiccups on Tuesday. Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals’ first baseman, greeted him with a homer from a fastball in first place. It traveled to Goldschmidt’s bat at 91.1 miles per hour. Thirty-five of his 45 fastballs were clocked at 91 mph or less. On the second lap, Strasburg made turns and changes to stay afloat.

“The feeling for the curveball was there, the change was a small success or failure,” said Strasburg. “But the fastball command was very inconsistent. It is what it is. I’ve had such starts before. “

It worked for an inning. In the third case, however, the cracks widened into a gaping hole. Arenado tore an inside move to the seats on the left field. Two batters later, after Strasburg fell back with two wrong turns, Carpenter smashed a fastball three-quarters on the right field foul bar. Arenado’s two-run shot just opened the locks. Carpenter attacked the park and closed it with a curtain.

Despite Juan Soto’s brace in the upper half, the Nationals (2-6) were 5-1 behind. Strasburg had withdrawn behind the dugout to massage his shoulder and neck.

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From the second inning onwards, Avilán stirred and stretched in the bullpen. It was the contingency plan. But he didn’t throw warm-up spots until Strasburg stumbled on the fourth. And when Strasburg escaped from a base-laden jam with a double game, Avilán was sitting in front of Strasburg, who was second on the deck circle to meet himself.

There was the option of hooking Strasburg for a pinch – and inserting Avilán – but Martinez didn’t take it. He pushed Strasburg to fifth place with 78 spaces. He was warming up Avilán when Strasburg stepped on the rubber. Then Starlin Castro couldn’t handle a burned liner from Carpenter’s bat; Dylan Carlson walked five fields that sprayed around the zone; and Andrew Knizner singled and hit a 90-mile sinker to get Martinez out of the dugout.

“It was the fourth inning,” said Martinez, reiterating that Strasburg needs to increase his number of pitches after throwing just five innings in 2020. “This is Stephen Strasburg, you know? The game was 5-1 regardless of the score and we still had a chance to win … We didn’t think there was any problem.”

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Avilán stepped in and somehow made the balloon. The Cardinals (6-5) bullied the left-hander with six hits and had him throw 38 pitches to record three outs. Avilán went two and the Nationals made a few mistakes, bringing in a total of 14 batters. And when the eighth arrived, infielder Hernán Pérez relieved the Nationals’ bullpen and recorded the second one-two-three inning of the night.

Strasburg never faced fewer than four batters in any of his full frames. At the Nationals clubhouse, he went through his detailed post-start routine. It was the seventh time in 243 career outings that he had allowed seven or more deserved runs. The Nationals just hoped it was an isolated incident.