In two starts back from the disabled list, Stephen Strasburg has dropped his ERA half a run and shown signs of dominance otherwise absent from an inadequate season.
Another strong start Wednesday night at Coors Field could dip his ERA to a season low and help the Washington Nationals earn a series win over a Colorado Rockies club that could be without Carlos Gonzalez.
Strasburg (6-6, 4.62 ERA), who spent over a month on the DL with a left oblique strain, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings since returning. He was stuck with the decision in Thursday’s 3-1 loss in San Francisco after surrendering two runs in six innings, and the rotation has since given up 20 earned runs in four games.
The right-hander dominated the Rockies on Aug. 8 in his first game back, allowing a run and three hits with a season-high 12 strikeouts in seven innings.
"It’s the best I’ve seen him in a long time," teammate Ryan Zimmerman told MLB’s official website. "Hopefully, this kind of bad luck he’s been having, hopefully, he will get rid of those (injuries) and be that guy for the next 2 1/2 months."
Strasburg has a chance to drop his ERA below 4.50 for the first time this year, but he’s been unable to find any magic at Coors with losses in two starts and a 5.56 ERA.
Charlie Blackmon is 3 for 6 with two doubles against Strasburg, but Nick Hundley (1 for 12 with five strikeouts), Nolan Arenado (1 for 8 with a homer and four strikeouts) and Gonzalez (2 for 11 with six strikeouts) have struggled.
Gonzalez left Tuesday’s 15-6 series-opening loss due to inflammation in his right knee after homering for a second straight game. It was also his fourth homer in his last four against Washington and 15th in his last 25.
Blackmon was held out of the starting lineup due to illness before replacing Gonzalez, whose 2014 ended in August after requiring left knee surgery. He is day to day.
"I tweaked it a little bit but nothing bad," Gonzalez said. "I think I’ll be OK for (Wednesday)."
Strasburg might not love the mile-high air, but Jorge De La Rosa’s season might make him feel more comfortable about those struggles. De La Rosa (7-5, 4.75) is on pace to put together his worst home season with the Rockies, going 2-2 with a 6.62 ERA after entering at 45-14 with a 4.00 mark at Coors from 2008-2014.
The left-hander’s last four starts have come on the road, but they weren’t a whole lot better with a 1-1 record and 5.24 ERA. He didn’t earn the decision in a 5-4 win at Washington on Aug. 7 but is 5-1 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts in the series since joining Colorado in 2008.
Danny Espinosa (3 for 6 with two doubles) and Ian Desmond (5 for 12) have figured him out, but Anthony Rendon is 1 for 9.
Espinosa and Desmond logged two of six multihit efforts Tuesday to help Washington end a six-game losing streak. The 15-hit night matched their third-best of the season after batting .179 on the skid.
Another victory would give the Nationals (59-59) 10 wins in 16 games since last losing a series in Denver in 2010. They’re batting .315 in that time, with Desmond hitting .591 with 16 RBIs in his last 10 there. His .436 career average at Coors is 98 points higher than any other NL park.
The Rockies (48-69) have dropped seven of eight and are in danger of falling a season-worst 22 games under .500 – a mark they’ve dipped to in five other seasons, including two of the past three.