After a big 2-1 win last night behind one of their true aces, Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals and Mets played this afternoon on getaway day and grabbed a spot on ESPN because it was billed as Matt Harvey versus Stephen Strasburg. Two hard throwing big time shut down guys, right?
Not so. It became clear fairly early on that these are two completely different animals, even with Harvey making his first start since having Tommy John surgery.
Stephen Strasburg had the kind of start that he has far too often. He was throwing hard and dropping knee buckling breaking balls in the zone to hitters; but he didn’t look dominant. And then the trouble started.
Strasburg seemed to have no out pitch from the beginning, and allowed four runs in the third inning and also did damage to himself by walking three hitters. He struck out five in 5 and 1/3 innings and wasn’t the difference maker in the rubber game against the other team’s best pitcher. The Mets weren’t knocking fences down on Strasburg by any means, but they found a way to make contact and punch balls just beyond the grasp of infielders and single the other way with guys in scoring position.
Harvey on the other hand was a complete badass. I saw him blow away Bryce Harper three times with 97 or 98 MPH gas up in the zone and you look at his line; he walked one hitter on the day and struck out nine.
If you’ve watched a lot of the Nationals and Strasburg, you’ve kind of become used to these type of outings from Strasburg. It was an opening series 6-3 loss that drops them to 1-2 on the year; it’s not the end of the world.
But on a mostly quiet day in baseball, the biggest take home message is that it’s becoming more and more clear by the day that Stephen Strasburg is just a good pitcher who will get his strikeouts and never have too high an ERA; but he’s no stopper. He’s probably reached his ceiling and he’s nowhere near the level of a Jordan Zimmerman in a game that the Nationals have to have. I wouldn’t be surprised if people inside the organization feel this way as well.