Stephen Strasburg showed off his high heat in the high humidity of a sweaty summer afternoon, setting yet another strikeout record. He also suffered his first major league defeat.
The hard-throwing right-hander struck out nine and allowed one run over six innings in his fourth start, but the Washington Nationals were punchless again on offense in a 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.
On the last better he faced, Strasburg (2-1) got his 41st strikeout by freezing Scott Podsednik with an 83 mph curveball. That broke a record held by Herb Score, who fanned 40 in his first four major league starts for Cleveland in 1955.
And, for the third time in four starts, Strasburg did not walk a batter. A stunning 75 of his 95 pitches were strikes. His fastball stayed in the high 90s despite the 93-degree temperature at first pitch.
Brian Bannister (7-5) allowed five hits and walked two in six sparkling innings for the Royals, who snapped a five-game losing streak with the victory in the finale of their six-game trip. Robinson Tejeda got six outs and Joakim Soria finished for his 17th save.
Strasburg lowered his ERA to 1.78 but allowed nine hits, one fewer than in his first three starts combined. Most were scattered, but the Royals put three together to score with two out in the fifth. Jose Guillen, who reached three times and extended his hitting streak to 18 games, singled in David DeJesus.
Also worth noting: The holiday buzz known as Strasmas is starting to fade a bit. The attendance was 31,913, some 8,000 short of the sellout that greeted his first two home starts. At least Nationals Park was better prepared for a Strasburg outburst: The scoreboard was altered so that it can register 20 Ks instead of 12, which he surpassed in his debut.
The Nationals have lost seven of nine, and they've been posting World Cup scores during their slump, including a pair of 2-1s and a now a pair of 1-0s. This time, a baserunning gaffe and a World Cup-type blown call hurt their chances.
In the fifth, Josh Willingham was halfway to home on a bobbled groundout to first by Adam Kennedy — then inexplicably turned around and went all the way back to third. Ian Desmond then struck out, and Strasburg grounded out to end the inning.
In the sixth, plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ruled Roger Bernadina's sliding foot didn't beat the throw home from right fielder Guillen on a single by Adam Dunn. The entire ballpark was stunned, and the replays weren't needed to back up the Nationals' case.
NOTES: All 15 hits in the game were singles. ... Strasburg already held the record for most strikeouts over his first three starts with 32. ... Strasburg also got his first major league hit, pulling a grounder through the hole for a single in the third. ... Bannister improved to 21-8 in his career when pitching in day games. ... The Royals had 31 hits in the series — 28 were singles. ... The Nationals haven't allowed a home run in seven games, the longest such streak since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.
Source: AP News