Nats, Strasburg ready for whiff-prone A's
OAKLAND, Calif. -- A high-strikeout pitcher matches up with a high-strikeout team when Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals open a three-game series Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.
Strasburg has never faced the A's, but he does have a successful history in interleague play, having gone 9-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 18 starts. Only Justin Verlander (28-5, .848) and Ivan Nova (10-3, .769) have recorded a higher winning percentage in the history of interleague play with 18 or more career starts.
The California native has gone 2-0 in five interleague starts since the beginning of the 2016 season, with 44 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings.
Strasburg is coming off a 15-strikeout effort at home against the San Diego Padres on Saturday. It was the most strikeouts in a major league game this season.
The A's averaged 14.8 strikeouts in their four-game series in Cleveland that wrapped up Thursday. Their 19 strikeouts Tuesday equaled the fourth most in a game this season, and they had 17 more Thursday.
Oakland will at least get a change of scenery when it begins a six-game homestand with right-hander Andrew Triggs (5-4, 2.64 ERA) on the mound.
The second-year right-hander held consecutive opponents without an earned run in his first two home starts of the season, but he has since given up 15 in his last four, including five in a 12-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on May 21 in his most recent Oakland appearance.
The A's won four of six on their last homestand, taking three of four against Boston. However, things went south on their seven-game trip to the Bronx and Cleveland. The A's committed three errors on Thursday in an 8-0, trip-ending loss to the Indians.
With his team striking out at an alarming rate and now having committed 55 errors, 15 more than any other club, A's manager Bob Melvin called a team meeting before the flight home.
"At times, as a group, things get contagious," Melvin said of the strikeouts and errors. "Then you start thinking about what you don't want to happen, instead of what you want to happen, and guys get a little tight."
The A's have allowed a majors-high 40 unearned runs this season, only three fewer than they gave up all of last year.
The Nationals enter the series at the other end of the mental spectrum. They were near-perfect on the mound, at the plate and in the field in a three-game sweep at San Francisco that ended with a 3-1 victory over the Giants on Wednesday night.
Washington did lose star right fielder Bryce Harper along the way as the result of his charging the mound Monday in response to getting hit by a Hunter Strickland pitch. His three-game suspension ends Sunday.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker feared potential complacency as he prepared to head back to his San Francisco hotel after the Wednesday win. The Nationals didn't need to change hotels between the San Francisco and Oakland series, and they got a full day off Thursday to boot.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Baker said in the wake of the sweep. "We're still on the West Coast. Nothing is easy."
Updated June 1, 2017