Stephen Strasburg was ejected in his last start for throwing at opposing batters and looks to regain his composure Thursday in the finale of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Granted Strasburg's last start was against the rival Atlanta Braves, he may have been caught up in the rivalry between the NL East foes and was tossed from an 8-7 win at Turner Field last Saturday. Strasburg hit Braves outfielder Justin Upton in the first inning and threw two pitches behind shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the second.
Strasburg and Nationals manager Davey Johnson were both ejected, but were not fined or suspended. Strasburg was asked about his actions afterward.
"I can't really explain it," said Strasburg, who allowed two runs in his inning of work. "I really didn't feel good out there."
The right-hander may have been retaliating in defense of teammate and star outfielder Bryce Harper, who has been plunked by the Braves several times this season. Strasburg was coming off his first career shutout against Philadelphia on Aug. 11 and is just 1-3 in his last four decisions. In 24 starts overall, Strasburg owns a 6-9 record and a 2.93 earned run average.
Strasburg lost to the Cubs on May 11 at Nationals Park and is 0-1 with a microscopic 0.75 ERA in two career starts against them. He may struggle at Wrigley Field because he sports just a 1-5 mark in 11 road starts this season.
Washington rallied for an 11-6 win over the Cubs on Wednesday and scored five runs over the last two innings. Pinch-Hitter and former Cub Scott Hairston belted a three-run homer in the seventh inning before Denard Span had an RBI triple and Ryan Zimmerman singled home a run in the eighth. Hairston was traded to the Nationals from Chicago back in early July.
"I know that he wants to show these guys what they're missing, and he did a heck of a job," Johnson said of Hairston after he posted his 200th win with the Nats.
Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer for the Nationals, winners in eight of their last 12 games. Ross Ohlendorf drew the start for Washington and did not record a decision after he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Tanner Roark was credited with the win and was reached for two runs in 1 2/3 frames.
The Nationals have a major hill to climb if they intend on making a playoff push and sit 9 1/2 games off a wild card spot. They're also 15 games behind Atlanta for the NL East lead and are 3-3 on a 10-game road trip. Washington will close out the journey this weekend in Kansas City.
Chicago will conclude an 11-day, 10-game homestand (2-7) this afternoon and lost for the eighth time in 10 tries on Wednesday.
The Cubs used a five-run fifth inning to even the score at 6-6, but the bullpen faltered down the stretch as James Russell and Hector Rondon allowed three and two runs, respectively. Russell was saddled with the loss and starter Jake Arrieta was tagged for six runs in four innings for the no- decision.
"That's a tremendous job of our guys battling, getting us back in the game," Arrieta said. "We just weren't able to hang on to it there and get the win."
Anthony Rizzo went 3-for-4 with two homers and three RBI. Junior Lake, Nate Schierholtz, Donnie Murphy and Brian Bogusevic ended with two hits apiece for the Cubs, who took the opener of this series, 11-1, and have lost 15 of their last 18 games at Wrigley. Chicago has hit 84 home runs as the home team, the second-highest mark in the majors behind Baltimore (88).
The Cubs have gone 6-17 in the past 23 games overall.
Chicago is scheduled to open a six-game western trek against San Diego and Los Angeles on Friday and hopes Travis Wood can pitch the club to a series split versus the Nationals. Wood is 0-3 in his last four starts and gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 4-0 loss to St. Louis last Saturday.
Wood, who has prevailed only once in his previous five decisions, is 7-10 with a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts this season. The left-hander has never faced Washington and is one of the better-hitting pitchers in the league with three homers and eight RBI this season.
Chicago won two of three matchups with Washington from May 10-12 in D.C.