So what rankled him? He didn’t field and bunt as well as he pitched.
The baseball holiday known as Strasmas—it comes every fifth day on your calendar right now—was again a spectacle Friday night. The 21-year-old rookie struck out 10 to run his total to an unprecedented 32 through three starts, but he experienced his first no-decision as the Chicago White Sox beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 in 11 innings before another sellout crowd.
Strasburg’s answers about his strikeout record (“That’s never going to be a goal of mine”) and the president (“Awesome—obviously he’s from Chicago, so he wanted to come watch the White Sox, too”) were mostly obligatory, but he was willing to speak more at length about two mistakes any pitcher might routinely make.
The game’s first batter, speedy Juan Pierre(notes), barely beat Strasburg to the bag on a grounder to first and eventually came around to score Chicago’s first run. Then, in the sixth, Strasburg failed to get a bunt down with a runner on first and one out.
“Didn’t get over there in time in the first inning, probably should have been an out there,” Strasburg said. “I didn’t get the bunt down. It’s the little things like that, up here they’re going to exploit it. I’m just going to come in tomorrow and work on my bunting a little bit—and see the (fielding) play out before it happens next time.”
Floyd allowed four hits with five strikeouts and one walk but got only one run of support. He has received no run support three times already this season and no-hit the Chicago Cubs through 6 2-3 innings on Sunday.
“Pretty good one,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said when asked about Strasburg. “But I think mine was better than him.”
But Floyd was a bit player to the main attraction. Even the president decided to make an unexpected visit to Nationals Park.
Obama’s arrival wasn’t announced inside the stadium, and there wasn’t the stringent security for fans that usually accompanies a public appearance. Joined by daughters Sasha and Malia and sipping a beer in a private box, the president wore a White Sox hat in support of his hometown team—just as he did when he threw out the first pitch at the ballpark on opening day.
Obama’s motorcade departed during the ninth inning, but he was part of another Strasburg sellout. The Nationals have filled the stands only three times all season: The first was opening day, and other two are Strasburg’s two home starts. Friday’s attendance was 40,325.
Strasburg allowed four hits over seven innings and at one point retired 15 batters in a row, mixing in his now-familiar repertoire of fastballs that occasionally hit 100 mph and curveballs and changeups that leave batters looking bewildered. He lowered his ERA to 1.86 and didn’t walk a batter for the second time in three starts. He threw 85 pitches, 59 for strikes.
J.R. Richard held the previous record for strikeouts in his first three major league starts, tallying 29 for the Houston Astros in 1971. Strasburg got his 30th and 31st back-to-back in the fifth inning, both on 92 mph changeups that sent Alexei Ramirez(notes) and Gordon Beckham(notes) down swinging.
“Stuff-wise, command-wise, poise-wise, you name it,” said first baseman Paul Konerko(notes), who had both a strikeout and a single against Strasburg. “In a list of things you want from a starting pitcher, he has it all.”
The game was decided after both Obama and Strasburg had departed. Mark Kotsay(notes) singled and scored on Alex Rios’(notes) infield hit off Drew Storen(notes) (2-1) in the 11th for the White Sox, who have won four straight and eight of nine. J.J. Putz(notes) (2-2) worked the 10th, and Bobby Jenks(notes) the 11th for his 14th save.
The Nationals have lost six of seven, with Strasburg accounting for the only victory.
“Stephen gave us a chance, like he’s probably going to do every single time,” said first baseman Adam Dunn(notes), whose RBI double in the seventh inning drove in Washington’s only run. “Our offense just stunk it up.”
There was one other familiar Strasburg sight—he again had trouble with the mound. He asked for dirt to be added to his landing spot twice during his start at Cleveland, and several times on Friday he tapped the mound at the spot where his right foot hits the ground.
Strasburg said he was just being cautious because he and Floyd have similar strides.
“I was just making sure I had a good landing,” Strasburg said.
Strasburg allowed a run in the first inning on Pierre’s infield hit, a bloop double and Rios’ RBI groundout—the first run he has allowed that didn’t score on a home run. Then he settled down and didn’t allow another runner to reach second base.
“We’ll get to the point where we don’t hold him back after six, seven innings,” Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. “But right now that’s not where we’re at with him.”
NOTES: Fans unveiled a huge banner in right-center field before the start of the eighth inning. It read: “MLB: Boycott AZ, Move the 2011 All-Star Game.” The protest of Arizona’s new immigration law was quickly removed. … Washington RHP Jordan Zimmermann(notes) (elbow surgery) threw a 35-pitch simulated game Friday and He hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment soon. … Sox RHP Jake Peavy(notes) said his ailing shoulder was fine, and he’ll pitch Saturday. His scheduled start Thursday was moved back two days.