Houston Astros' outfielder Trevor Crowe, a 29-year-old, '05 Cleveland Indians' 1st Round pick out of the University of Arizona, fouled off a few 1-2 pitches and lined to center off '09 no.1 overall pick (and former SDSU starter) Stephen Strasburg for a leadoff hit in the first at bat of tonight's Grapefruit League game in Viera, Florida's Space
Coast Ghost Stadium. '08 St. Louis Cardinals' 1st Round pick Brett Wallace sliced a 1-2 curve to left where it got caught on the wind and curled away from a lunging 2010 Nats' no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper. Scored a hit since Harp didn't touch it. With runners on first and second and no one out, former Oakland A's first baseman Carlos Pena, who was famously traded by Brad Pitt as Billy Beane because he was making the other Athletics look bad, rolled over a 1-2 change and sent a grounder to second that advanced both runners into scoring postition with one down. Former New York Mets' top prospect Fernando Martinez had no chance catching up to a 96 mph 2-2 heater. A 1-2 bender to Rick Ankiel sent the former Nationals' outfielder out to center field with his hat and glove for the bottom of the first. Called strike three. 25-pitch opening frame for Strasburg. 2 Ks.
Houston right-hander Lucas Harrell made quick work of the Nats' in the bottom of the first, sending Stephen Strasburg back out to the mound rather quickly. Ryan Zimmerman got to do the old charge and low throw on the first ball hit to him this Spring off Astros' catcher Carlos Corporan's bat. Strasburg shaved Marwin Gonzalez's armpits with a high 90's heater up under the arms that had the 'Stros' shortstop taking deep breaths as he took a step out of the box to collect himself. The 24-year-old infielder went the other way with a grounder that Adam LaRoche backhanded and played for out no.2. Astros' second baseman Jake Elmore reached on a two-out infield single in front of Astros' starter Lucas Harrell, who was reportedly told not to swing by manager Bo Porter. He listened. Backwards K. 3 strikeouts in 2.0 scoreless. 39 pitches after a 14-pitch second by Strasburg.
Adam LaRoche was the Nationals' first baserunner when he walked with one down in the home-half of the second. Ian Desmond K'd swinging at a two-strike curve for out no.2 and Danny Espinosa grounded to first to end Lucas Harrell's second scoreless.
A diving 0-2 change away got Trevor Crowe chasing for out no.1 and K no.3 on the night for Strasburg. An 0-2 curve to Brett Wallace hit a bird on the way to the plate and fell under Wallace's bat. Out no.2, K no. 5. An 84 mph 1-1 change had veteran slugger Carlos Pena guessing. Strasburg missed with a 97 mph fastball low and away, and couldn't get the left-hander to bite on a curve, but a full-count change just wasn't fair. Swinging K for Pena. Out no.3 and K no.6 for Strasburg. 52 pitches in 3.0 scoreless after a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 3rd. Wilson Ramos, Strasburg and Denard Span went down in order in the bottom of the frame.
23-year-old Astros' outfield prospect Robbie Grossman took a 76 mph 2-2 curve for a called strike three and Strasburg's seventh K. Strasburg threw an otherworldly change* to Rick Ankiel and got ahead of the former Nationals' outfielder, but the Arm got hold of a 2-2 fastball inside and jacked it to right for a solo blast that soared over Jayson Werth's head and out for a 1-0 Astros' lead. Carlos Corporan grounded weakly to short for out no.2 of the top of the fourth. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Marwin Gonzalez did the same. Grounder. Desmond. Out. x 2. 1-0 Astros over the Nats. 67 pitches for Strasburg. Jayson Werth walked for the first time this Spring to start the Nationals' fourth, but was quickly erased on a 4-6-3 DP off Bryce Harper's bat. Ryan Zimmerman's bat, or at least the barrel of it, almost took Lucas Harrell out, but the 'Stros' starter made the play on the grounder to the mound as everything but the handle of Zim's bat flew over his head. 1-0 Houston after four.
• (ed. note - "Here's that 'otherworldly' changeup..."):
Strasburg caught the outside corner with a 94 fastball 1-1 fastball to Jake Elmore, then got the second baseman to ground to short for out no.1 of the fifth. Grounder. Desmond. Out. once again. 24-year-old Astros' outfielder Jimmy Paredes K'd swinging through a 1-2 change for K no.8 on the evening for Strasburg. Trevor Crowe took a healthy cut at a 3-1 fastball but came up empty, then he doubled to center on the full count pitch, but Crowe took a wide turn around second and Ian Desmond saw Adam LaRoche sneak in behind him and threw to the bag where the Nats' first baseman applied the tag. +Defense. +Sneaky.That's an 8-6-3 put out. 1-0 Astros after four and a half. 81 pitches for Stras after a 14-pitch fourth.
Adam LaRoche lined to center for the Nationals' first hit of the night off Astros' reliever Wesley Wright, who was promptly lifted from the game. Houston right-hander Hector Ambriz came on next and retired the next three batters in order, however and the Nationals had just one hit after 5.0 innings in Viera, Florida.
Brett Wallace flew to left on a 93 mph full-count fastball from Strasburg for out no.1 in the sixth. Strasburg just missed outside with a 1-2 fastball to Carlos Pena, then missed inside with a 2-2 bender. The Nats' right-hander's 3-2 fastball missed low and brought Davey Johnson out to the mound. 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 93 P. Robbie Grossman grounded out to second for out no.2 with Craig Stammen on for Washington and Rick Ankiel K'd swinging to end the sixth. Still 1-0 Houston after five and a half.
27-year-old Seattle Mariners' 1st Round pick Josh Fields took over for the Astros in the seventh and walked Nats' catcher Chris Snyder in the first at bat. The Nationals' second "hit" of the game was a fly to center off Denard Span's bat that Robbie Grossman lost in Viera, Florida's friscilating dusklight. Second and third with no outs. Jayson Werth popped to right unproductively for out no.1, but Bryce Harper walked to load the bases in front of Chad Tracy. The Nats' HCBB and Good Squad leader grounded to first and the Astros came home for the force. Adam LaRoche stepped in with the bases loaded and two down and popped up on the first pitch he saw. Out no. thre--- the Astros let it drop. Span scores. 1-1 game. Ian Desmond singles to left. 2-1 Nats after six.
Craig Stammen threw a quick, 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Astros' right-hander Edgar Gonzalez retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the inning. Nats' '09 1st Round pick Drew Storen took over in the eighth and gave up a leadoff single by first by Astros' infielder Jose Martinez. Trevor Crowe's second hit of the game sent Martinez around to third and with runners on the corners, 2012 no.1 overall pick Carlos Correa hit an RBI single through short to tie the game at 2-2 in the eighth. Crowe tagged and took third on a Jonathan Singleton fly to center to put runners on the corners with one down. Robbie Grossman K'd swinging at an over-the-top 2-2 slider from Storen for out no.2. With 20-year-old Astros' outfielder Domingo Santana at the plate, Correa swiped second, and Santana then walked to load the bases with two down and a broken bat single by backup catcher Rene Garcia gave the Astros a two-run lead. 4-2 Houston and a frustrated Storen after seven and half.
Chad Tracy singled off Astros' right-hander Edgar Gonzalez with one down in the Nationals' eighth. Adam LaRoche flew to left for out no.2. Zach Walters K'd swinging to end the bottom of the inning. Henry Rodriguez took over for the Nats in the top of the ninth. Carlos Rivero dropped a pop to right off Jake Elmore's bat, putting a runner on second to start the frame. Elmore swiped third with Jose Martinez up. Rivero caught Martinez's fly to right and made a strong throw home to keep Elmore at third. Trevor Crowe K'd chasing a diving two-strike change for out no.2. 18-year-old Carlos Correa popped up to second to end the top of the frame.
Chris Snyder hit a two-out single off Edgar Gonzalez to keep the game going for one more out and bring Corey Brown to the plate with a chance to tie it, but Brown grounded to second to end the game. 4-2 Astros final.