Three Strikes: Stephen Strasburg dominates; Cubs offense goes cold vs. Dodgers

Sunday May 28th, 2017

Here's what you may have missed from Saturday in baseball:

All Hail Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg arrived in the big leagues seven years ago as one of the most touted pitching prospects in history and was expected to become one of the next great strikeout artists in the mold of Randy Johnson or Tom Seaver. In his big league debut, he struck out 14 hitters, a total he had only equaled once in his career entering Saturday’s game against the Padres. Several injuries and many inconsistent years later, Strasburg hasn’t become one of the game’s great pitchers by age 28, but his best performances remain some of the best that baseball has to offer.

One night after Max Scherzer flummoxed the Padres with 13 strikeouts over 8 ⅔ innings, Strasburg recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts over seven innings in the Nationals’ 3–0 win over San Diego. Strasburg has now recorded 26 strikeouts over his past two outings and appears to be regaining the form that makes him one of baseball’s most fearsome pitchers. Perhaps his stats are skewed by facing two of the National League’s most tepid offenses in San Diego and Atlanta, but his dominant form is a welcome sight for the first-place Nationals.

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Washington is now 30–18 and sits comfortably atop the NL East despite a struggling bullpen. Manager Dusty Baker may have found his closer in Koda Glover, who logged his second save in two nights with a perfect ninth inning. Glover now has a 2.35 ERA and hasn’t surrendered an earned run in May.

Fly The Zero

After finishing their most recent homestand with seven wins, the Cubs looked like they regained their championship form after a mediocre start to the 2017 season. Eighteen scoreless innings into their latest roadtrip, the problems that have plagued Chicago have returned to the spotlight.

On Friday, the Cubs couldn’t figure out Alex Wood and a Dodger bullpen of Pedro Baez and Chris Hatcher during a 4–0 loss. On Saturday, Brandon McCarthy and Ross Stripling silenced Chicago again in a 5–0 defeat in Los Angeles. It was the first time the Cubs had been shutout in back-to-back games since 2014, and they’ll have to find a way to score against Clayton Kershaw and a rested Kenley Jansen in Sunday’s finale.

Only Ian Happ, Addison Russell and Miguel Montero could muster hits on Saturday, a toothless performance from a lineup that successfully tuned up the Dodgers during last year’s NLCS and in April at Wrigley Field. The most notable hitless member of the lineup was, again, Kyle Schwarber, who hit a couple of long foul balls, but finished 0–3 with a walk to drop his average to .179. With the emergence of Happ, who can play both in the infield and outfield, and the resurgence of Jason Heyward, Schwarber may find himself in a platoon role if he can’t solve the hitting woes that have plagued him all season.

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The Dodgers, meanwhile, showcased their depth by riding McCarthy—who finally looks healthy after two injury-plagued seasons—and the unlikely duo of Chris Taylor and Chase Utley. Taylor, who started the season in AAA, may find himself in the All-Star Game if he keeps up his current pace. The reserve infielder/outfielder is now hitting .327 with six home runs after launching a two-run shot off of John Lackey on Saturday. Utley, who spent most of April hitting below .100, notched two hits and two RBIs after homering off of Jake Arrieta during Friday night’s win.

It’s only May, but of last year’s National League finalists, the Dodgers look a little better equipped for the long season.

Random Tidbits

-- Josh Fuentes of the Hartford Yard Goats suffered the most embarrassing strikeout imaginable on Friday night, and all for just trying to make some folks laugh.

Fuentes, the cousin of Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, was ruled out because the ball hadn’t crossed the plate before he swung. The umpire may be humorless, but he was correct.

-- Andrelton Simmons made this unbelievable play from shortstop, which may not be so unbelievable once you realize it was Simmons who made the play.

-- Mike Trout hit this 443-foot moonshot against the Marlins for his 16th home run of the year.

-- Brian Johnson tossed a complete game shutout in the Red Sox 6–0 win over the Mariners. It was Johnson’s third big league start and the first shutout that any Boston pitcher has logged this season. The Sox have now won six in a row to improve to 27–21.

-- Chase Anderson carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and outdueled Zack Greinke in the Brewers’ 6–1 win over the Diamondbacks.

-- Carlos Correa made this positively silly catch.

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