The Washington Nationals looked to continue their success against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, and the headline matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Brandon Beachy certainly didn't disappoint. The secondary headline to make Nats fans happy was looking in right field and seeing Michael Morse make his 2012 MLB debut.
Strasburg had one of the best starts of his entire career on Saturday afternoon; his fastball was flying free and easy with all of his other pitches setting up hitters throughout the game. He threw just 90 pitches in seven strong innings, and he only gave up four hits. He struck out nine and didn't walk a batter or give up a run. It's entirely possible that Strasburg could have gone the distance, but Davey Johnson decided to go with Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard to close out the game for the Nats 30th win on the season.
Beachy was just as impressive through most of his start. He gave up just three hits in 6.1 innings. It was a home run to Jesus Flores to lead off the fifth inning and an extremely high pitch count due to walks that proved to be Beachy's only weaknesses in an otherwise stellar start. Beachy pitched well enough to win this game, but Strasburg was just that much better.
The Nationals now are 30-23 on the season and are still sitting in first place ahead of the Miami Marlins and the surprisingly impressive New York Mets. Still, just 3.5 games separate first and last place in the NL East. It's going to be a long, exciting summer watching this division play baseball.
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post pointed out after Strasburg's outing that he matched the best Bill James game score of his career on Saturday. The other game? Strasburg's 10 strikeout one-hitter against the Marlins to close the 2011 season.
- Michael Morse's presence in the lineup is a sight for sore eyes after what the Nationals have dealt with offensively for most of the season. Though he went 0-for-4 on Saturday, once he gets back into a rhythm, the Nats will be in great shape.
- With Morse back in the lineup, the Nats put out what I think is their best one through eight of the season so far. Sure, you'd like to see Jayson Werth in there, but you can probably expect to see a lot of repeats of Saturday's lineup over the coming weeks.
- Bryce Harper continues to be absolutely nasty this season. He walked twice with a hit on Saturday, and with that performance, he's reached base in 17 of his last 18 games. It's hard to remind yourself that he's still just 19 years old.
- Xavier Nady picked up where Chad Tracy left the Goon Squad, with a pinch-hit double. Nady will likely be the first righty pinch-hitter off the bench for Johnson, so it's nice to see he got it off to a good start. It's going to take a lot for him to make fans forget about his lackluster start to the season, though.