An ingrown toenail which required attention led to Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg making his second Spring Training start against Nats' minor leaguers and a few regulars like Bryce Harper and Kevin Frandsen.
Second-year Nationals' manager Matt Williams explained that having Strasburg throw in that environment allowed them to "control the game" as MASN's Chris Johnson noted in reporting that the no.1 overall pick of the 2009 Draft threw a total of 50 pitches in three innings of work in the outing, after which Williams said he, "doesn't expect any issues... going forward."
Strasburg's third start of the Spring, his second in Grapefruit League action, took place this afternoon on the road in Lakeland, Florida's Joker Marchant Stadium, where the Nationals took on Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
Davey Johnson visited the Nationals in Lakeland!!:
Great to see former #Nats Manager Davey Johnson today! He's been catching up with lots of his former players. pic.twitter.com/TZI5d5eLvc— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 17, 2015
Strasburg took the mound with a 1-0 lead -- courtesy of an RBI single by Nationals' backstop Wilson Ramos, which drove Ian Desmond in after Desmond tripled to center field off Verlander with one down in the top of the first -- and retired the Tigers in order in a quick home-half of the first inning.
Detroit's DH J.D. Martinez doubled to right-center off Strasburg in the first at bat of the Tigers' second and took third on a wild pitch to Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes K'd swinging at a 2-2 curve. Nats' right fielder Bryce Harper showed his arm off in yesterday's game against Houston, throwing Alex Presley out at second when the Astros' outfielder tried turning a line drive single to right field into a double. Martinez and the Tigers showed proper respect for Harper on a fly to right off Hernan Perez's bat, declining to tag up and try for home. Strasburg then took care of the third out himself, striking Tigers' third baseman Jefry Marte out to end the threat and strand Martinez at third.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. hit an 0-2 (offspeed?) pitch from Verlander out to right field to put the Nationals up 2-0 in the top of the third, connecting for his first home run of the Spring.
Pretty cool thing today for @stras37 and @tonygwynnjr to play together. "It's kind of funny how it all comes full circle." -- Strasburg— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 17, 2015
Tigers' catcher Bryan Holaday bunted his way on in the first at bat of Strasburg's third inning of work, dropping one down the third base line and shortstop Andrew Romine singled through short to put two on with no one out. Rajai Davis grounded out to second, moving both runners into scoring position, but Anthony Gose K'd swinging at what was described as another filthy breaking ball from Strasburg and Ian Kinsler grounded out to Kevin Frandsen at second to end the frame.
Kila Ka'aihue hit a fastball from Verlander out to right field, "ten feet" over the scoreboard in Joker Marchant Stadium which the Tigers' radio broadcast team estimated is at least "30 feet high". Ka'aihue's two-run blast made it 4-0 Nats after three and a half.
Strasburg struck Yoenis Cespedes out with another breaking ball -- which had the outfielder shaking his head on the way back to the dugout according to the Tigers' announcers, who were also in awe of the pitch's movement -- for his fifth K of the game and the second out of a 1-2-3 fourth inning.
Justin Verlander gave up five hits, a walk and three runs in four innings.
Strasburg's afternoon ended after four scoreless innings of work in which he struck out five and allowed three hits, throwing a total of 61 pitches, 44 for strikes.
The final line for @Stras37 4IP, 3 H, 5 K -- 61 pitches.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 17, 2015
A.J. Cole retired the Tigers in order in the bottom of the fifth inning, but gave up a two-out solo home run to left by Ian Kinsler in the sixth. 4-1 Nationals.
The Nats loaded the bases with Joba Chamberlain on the mound in the top of the seventh inning and pushed two runs across on an RBI single by Matt Skole and a sac fly by Wilmer Difo. 6-1.
In his third inning of work, Cole pitched around a two-out double by Tigers' catcher James McCann and completed a scoreless frame.
Nationals' lefty Jerry Blevins came on for some work in the eighth with the score still 6-1 Nationals and allowed the first two batters he faced, Jason Krizan and Wynton Bernand, to reach base on a single and walk, respectively.
One out later, Tigers' outfielder Tyler Collins hit a three-run home run out to right to get Detroit within two, 6-4. Blevins was visited on the mound by Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, and after a HBP, the southpaw was lifted.
Xavier Cedeno came on and retired the first two batters he faced to end the Tigers' eighth.
Veteran lefty Rich Hill's scoreless ninth ended it. 6-4 Nationals final.