In sunny Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium this afternoon, 24-year-old Stephen Strasburg got the first out of his fourth Grapefruit League start with a fastball in an 0-2 count vs Atlanta Braves' leadoff man Tyler Pastornicky that was called strike three by home plate ump Gary Cederstrom. Siddown, Tyler. One pitcher later, a grounder to Ian Desmond at short got the Washington Nationals' starter two outs on four pitches. +Efficiency. + Grounder. Desmond. Out. Two down. Another backwards K, this one from Justin Upton, and the Nats' 24-year-old right-hander had a quick, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 opening frame vs the Nats' NL East rivals.
Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper was 14 for 30 this Spring after his two-out single off the Braves' Paul Maholm in the bottom of the first, but Harper was stranded at second after a balk and a Ryan Zimmerman groundout and '09 Nats' no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg was quickly back on the hill. B.J. Upton hit a one-out single off Chad Tracy's glove at third for the Braves' first hit off the Nats' starter, but a 5-4-3 DP off ATL first baseman Ernesto Mejia's bat ended an 11-pitch inning with Strasburg at 20 pitches total after 2.0 scoreless.
Paul Maholm retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the second, so Strasburg was quickly back out for the third. The Nats' right-hander gave his outfielders some work with Blake DeWitt and 21-year-old Braves' catcher Christian Bethancourt flying out to right and center, respectively, before another groundout to short ended Strasburg's third scoreless. Grounder. Desmond. Out. 3.0 IP, 1 H, 2 Ks, 28 P for Strasburg after an eight-pitch inning vs Atlanta.
Maholm retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the third inning, and Strasburg got another groundout to start the fourth. Yep, short again. Grounder. Desmond. Out. A backwards K from Jordan Schafer made it three backwards Ks in 3.2 IP. Make that four backwards ones, as Justin Upton stared the same two-strike fastball he got in the first all the way in for a called strike three in his second AB. 4.0 scoreless for Strasburg. 42 pitches total after a 14-pitch fourth. Werth, Harper and Zim went down in order in the bottom of the inning and the Nats' right-handed starter head right back to the hill.
Juan Francisco was the first strikeout victim of the day who went down swinging against Strasburg, who had 5 Ks total in 4.1 IP when he got the Braves' third baseman to start the top of the fifth. A pop to Ian Desmond behind short off B.J. Upton's bat made it 4.2 scoreless for Strasburg, but the right-hander issued the first walk of the game to ATL 1B Ernesto Mejia and then went behind 3-0 against Blake DeWitt before getting a grounder to the mound with a 3-1 pitch for 5.0 scoreless vs Atlanta. 20 pitch inning has Strasburg at 52.
Adam LaRoche took the first walk from Maholm in the bottom of the fifth, and there were two runners on quickly after Ian Desmond grounded back to the mound and off the Braves' lefty's glove. The ball bounced toward third, but Juan Francisco had no play. Francisco fielded a grounder off Espinosa's bat in the next AB, however, and stepped on third before throwing to first for a 5-3 DP. Two down and a Kurt Suzuki groundout ends the fifth.
Strasburg was the first Nationals' pitcher of the Spring to come out for a sixth inning of work this year. A fly to center off Christian Bethancourt's bat had him through 5.1 with no one on before pinch hitter Reed Johnson lined to right and Braves' leadoff man Tyler Pastornicky rolled one by second as both reached on back-to-back one-out singles. A walk to Jordan Schafer loaded the bases with one down and a line drive single through short by Justin Upton brought two runs in and ended Strasburg's day. 2-0 Braves. 24 pitches in the sixth, so that's 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R*, 2 ER*, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 76 pitches, 53 strikes for Strasburg in his fourth start...
... Zach Duke took over for Strasburg, and got Juan Francisco looking for out no.2, but B.J. Upton's two-out single through short brought Schafer in from second ahead of a strong throw home from Bryce Harper. 3-0 Braves. 3 ER for Stras. Ernest Mejia made it 5-0 Atlanta, and 4 ER for Stras, scoring both Upton brothers with a two-out double to right-center and then scoring himself to make it 6-0 on Blake DeWitt's two-out, two-base hit. 6-0 Atlanta after five and a half. Jayson Werth lined to right for a two-out single off Braves' RHP Anthony Varvaro, collecting the Nats' third hit of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Bryce Harper got up 3-0, got the green light, but fouled off the 3-0 and 3-1 pitches from Varvaro and then took a called strike three to strand Werth and end the inning. 6-0 Braves.
(ed. note - " * = 4 R, 4 ER for Strasburg after two inherited runners score w/ Duke on the mound.")
Rafael Soriano took over in the seventh and threw a quick, 1-2-3 inning of work against Atlanta. Braves' right-hander Cory Gearrin gave up a leadoff single to right by Ryan Zimmerman in the home-half of the frame, and Zim was 1 for 3 today after the hit and 7 for 15 so far this Spring when he left the game for a pinch runner, Chris Marrero. Three strikeouts later, Marrero was stranded at first after Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa went down in order, all swinging. 6-0 Braves after seven in Viera, Florida.
Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez gave up a two-out single by Braves' backstop Matt Pagnozzi in the top of the eighth, then hit Matt Pagnozzi to put two runners on before he was lifted. Fernando Abad took over for Rodriguez. Blake DeWitt's two-out single brought Pagnozzi in to make it 7-0 Braves before Abad got Joey Terdaslovich swinging for out no.3. Nats' catcher Carlos Maldonado took a walk from 22-year-old, '09 10th Round pick Aaron Northcraft, a 6'4'' right-hander drafted out of high school in Arizona. After a Steve Lombardozzi groundout moved Maldonado up, Northcraft gave up one-out single by Corey Brown that moved the Nationals' backstop to third, and Maldonado scored on a Carlos Rivero groundout to finally get the Nats on the board. 7-1 Braves after eight.
Tyler Clippard threw a scoreless top of the ninth vs the Braves, striking Jordan Schafer out with a rising heater to end the top of the inning. Tyler Moore made it a five-run game with a solo home run to left off Northcraft in the Nationals' ninth, but 7-2 was as close as the Nats got this afternoon.
7-2 Braves final.