The phenom is looking to win for the first time in almost a month as the Nationals open a three-game series against the hot-hitting San Francisco Giants on Friday night.
Strasburg (2-2, 2.45 ERA) is 0-2 with a 2.59 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 24 1-3 innings over his last four starts since beating Cleveland on June 13. The right-hander has received one total run of support in that stretch, and none for three straight games.
Washington’s offense showed signs of improvement Saturday, but not until after Strasburg exited a 6-5 win over the New York Mets. The lineup produced three runs in the ninth to clinch the victory, but Strasburg received no support again. He allowed two runs in five innings after struggling through a 37-pitch opening inning.
“I’m probably trying to do too much, being a little too amped up,” Strasburg said of giving up one run with three walks in the first Saturday. “Once I relaxed a little bit … I was able to command my pitches better.”
The Nationals (38-48) are putting together a strong offensive stretch, hitting .295 - .319 with runners in scoring position - with eight homers and 25 runs in five games. Despite that surge, Washington failed to complete a three-game sweep of San Diego by falling 7-1 on Thursday.
Strasburg may be in for one of his toughest tests yet when he faces San Francisco (45-40), winner of four straight overall and six of seven at Washington.
The Giants enter this series following a four-game sweep at Milwaukee, during which they hit .325 with eight homers and 36 runs. They collected 16 hits with three homers in a 9-3 victory Friday.
“We’re going to face an outstanding pitcher. Hopefully, guys look forward to it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re having a pretty good road trip and we have some momentum going. That’s what you want.”
While Strasburg is gaining notoriety as one of the top young arms in baseball, fellow rookie Buster Posey(notes) is putting together his own impressive showing at the plate. Posey has a .336 average with six homers and 20 RBIs in 35 games since being recalled from the minors May 29.
Posey had nine hits with four homers and nine RBIs during the four-game sweep of Milwaukee.
“His power is amazing, man,” first baseman Aubrey Huff(notes) said. “It’s definitely a great swing, he stays through the ball well, he lets it get deep, he lets it travel and when you’re doing that there’s not to much you can throw up there at him that he’s not going to see and get fooled on.”
San Francisco will give the ball to Matt Cain(notes) (6-7, 2.98), who is looking to continue his dominance of the Nationals. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his last five starts against Washington, limiting the Nationals to two runs over 11 1-3 innings in his past two outings in the nation’s capital.
He hasn’t come close to being that effective recently, however, going 0-3 with a 6.85 ERA in his last four starts overall.
Cain saw another one of his outings result in a defeat for the Giants on Sunday, as he yielded three runs with four walks in seven innings of a 4-3, 15-inning loss at Colorado.