Strasburg comes as advertised

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, ...

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., June 13, 2012. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters)

CAITLYN HOLROYD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:47 PM ET

TORONTO - After two impressive games by teammate Bryce Harper, it was Stephen Strasburg’s turn to dazzle Toronto on Wednesday.

And dazzle he did.

Playing to the biggest crowd of the series — 41,667 — the 23-year-old pitcher earned his fifth straight win as his team beat the Blue Jays 6-2 to sweep the series.

In six innings, Strasburg threw 89 pitches, gave up five hits, two earned runs, one walk and eight strikeouts. He also became the first pitcher in the major leagues — and the first Washington pitcher since Walter Johnson in 1919 — to reach 100 strikeouts this early in the season.

Not bad for his first time in Toronto, save a blister that cut his debut short.

“Before the sixth inning, he was trimming a nail or something and cut his finger right in the middle where the nail is and he pitched,” manager Davey Johnson said after the game. “There was one pitch that aggravated it when he threw and he said: ‘I just won’t throw that pitch’ and I said: ‘No, you won’t throw anymore pitches.’ He was fighting tooth and nail not to come out of that ball game.”

Johnson said that the cut is expected to heal before Strasburg’s next start. But for a pitcher who likes go deep into ball games, it was tough to leave early.

“Honestly, I want to go out there and see it through the whole way so it’s tough. Obviously, you’re going to have little things that happen throughout the year. It’s a tough call for (Johnson) to make that decision,” Strasburg said.

The right-hander is now 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA this season and leads all Nationals pitchers in win-loss records. Over parts of three seasons, he is 14-5 with a 2.50 ERA and has yet to play a full season in the major leagues. He was drafted first overall by the team in the 2009 draft and has become a franchise player, attracting attention just about everywhere he goes — and for good reason. He currently leads the league in K/9 (strikes per 9) innings ratio, is tied for second in wins, and has allowed just 20 walks in 77 innings.

Many pre-season predictions had Strasburg limited to 160 innings this season following elbow-ligament replacement surgery last September. He hopes that isn’t the case.

“I try not to think about it but with the direction that we’re going, it makes it even harder to not think about it. I can’t control that but hopefully things can change and we get to where we want to be and somehow I’m part of it still,” he said.

INTERLEAGUE HORROR

With Brandon Morrow out for an indefinite amount of time and the team in the midst of interleague play, the Blue Jays could be facing their toughest stretch yet.

Toronto has struggled against interleague teams this season, posting a 3-6 record. Last year, the team went 8-10 and are among the league’s worst in interleague play between 1997 and 2011 with a record of 123-142 (.464).

The Jays have taken just one of their three interleague series this season, losing 2-1 against Atlanta and, most recently, getting swept by the Washington Nationals. With their 6-2 win over the Jays on Wednesday, the Nationals have now won six consecutive interleague games.

Manager Farrell said before Wednesday’s game that although the record doesn’t indicate, he sees an improvement in his team’s performance against interleague teams from last year.

“The quality of the games, yes. The win-loss record ... we’ll better answer that definitively once we get through the interleague play.”

Toronto’s next nine games are against National League teams, though it could catch a break as each of the three teams are struggling this season. The Philadelphia Phillies — who are in town on Friday – currently sit at the bottom of the NL East at 29-34. Just above them is Miami, who the Jays will visit on June 22 after their three-game series in Milwaukee beginning next Monday.


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