Stephen Strasburg's second Grapefruit League outing, and his third start of the Spring, came back on March 17th, when the 26-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick held the Detroit Tigers scoreless over four innings of work in which he gave up three hits and struck out five.
Strasburg threw 61 pitches total in that outing, but while he prepared for his third official start, he twisted his left ankle, suffering what Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams told reporters was a "sprain."
"'I don’t think it’s serious,'" Williams told reporters, including Washington Post writer James Wagner, but the Nats didn't want Strasburg to suffer another injury while compensating for the ankle.
"'You start messing with other parts of the body and go out there and try to throw, as scheduled, 75 pitches, we don’t want to have any issues with the arm trying to overcompensate."
Strasburg said the ankle injury was just an accident, and he was glad it happened now rather than during the regular season.
"'If the injury was going to happen, let it happen now," he told MLB.com's Bill Ladson. "'Get it out of the way and get back out there as soon as possible.'"
Strasburg, as MLB.com's reporter noted, tested the ankle in a bullpen session, throwing 20 pitches without issue, so he was cleared to return to the mound for this afternoon's start.
After his last outing, he said he was getting there in terms of his preparation for the 2015 campaign, having made two starts in Grapefruit League action and one against Nationals' major and minor leaguers after a procedure to take care of an ingrown toenail earlier this Spring.
"It can always get better," Strasburg said after the start against the Tigers. "My third start, so, still just got to get the pitch count up."
He was, however, happy with his stuff.
"Two-seamer was working pretty well," he said. "Changeup got better as the game went on. Curveball, I was able to throw it for a strike today, so everything was working pretty well."
This afternoon, in Port St. Lucie, Florida's Tradition Field, Strasburg took the mound in the bottom of the first inning and threw a scoreless frame, issuing a one-out walk to Mets' right fielder Curtis Granderson before getting David Wright to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3. 10-pitch frame.
Lucas Duda worked the count full in the first at bat of the second, but sent a 96 mph fastball out to Yunel Escobar at second base. Michael Cuddyer was first-pitch swinging and sent a fly ball out to Bryce Harper in right. Strasburg fell behind Wilmer Flores, 2-1, and Flores put a charge into the next offering, but lined out to Tony Gwynn, Jr. in center to end a 12-pitch inning. Two scoreless for Strasburg, 22 pitches total.
Travis D'Arnaud lined out to right field in the first at bat of the third, but Mets' second baseman Ruben Tejada sent a grounder out to left field, by Ian Stewart's backhand attempt at third, for a one-out double. Jacob de Grom K'd swinging over a 91 mph 1-2 change from Strasburg for the second out of the inning. Juan Lagares fouled off a few 2-2 offerings from Strasburg, checked his swinging on a breaking ball off the plate outside and eventually walked when he spit on another bender in the dirt outside. Curtis Granderson fell behind 1-2, but crushed a center-cut 92 mph 1-2 change in on the hands, sending a three-run blast out to right field. 3-0 Mets. David Wright went the other way in the next at bat, going with a 94 mph 2-1 fastball outside and powering it out to right. 4-0 Mets. Lucas Duda worked the count full and popped out to end a 32 pitch inning. 54 pitches total for Strasburg after three.
Michael Cuddyer got hold of a 2-0 fastball, but it died in the wind blowing in from left and fell to Tyler Moore for the first out of the Mets' fourth. Wilmer Flores rolled over a 3-1 fastball, sending a weak grounder out to third. Travis d'Arnaud lined a 1-0 fastball to left... and by a diving Tyler Moore for a two-out triple. Not particularly well-played by Moore. Ruben Tejada stepped in with a runner on third and two down and worked the count full before striking out chasing a fastball outside. 70 pitches overall for Strasburg after a 16-pitch frame.
Strasburg's Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 2 HRs, 70 P, 39 S, 4/4 GO/FO.
Aaron Barrett retired the two Mets he faced in the fifth, at which point Matt Williams went to the pen for Jerry Blevins and a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Curtis Granderson which ended when Blevins dropped a full-count curve in over Granderson's hands for a called strike three.
Bryce Harper started up 2-0 on Jacob de Grom in the sixth, and unloaded on a 93 mph fastball, sending an absolute bomb out to right and onto the Seacoast Sun Deck far beyond the right field wall. 4-1 Mets after five and a half.
The Mets added two runs in the home-half of the sixth, with Lucas Duda "tripling" on a grounder to right that bounced off the stands that extend out into foul territory down the line and skipped by Bryce Harper. Duda scored on an RBI single by Michael Cuddyer and Cuddyer's pinch runner, Cesar Puello scored on an RBI double by Wilmer Flores. 6-1 Mets after six.
It got ugly after that with the Mets jumping out to a 10-1 lead in the seventh on the strength of some wind-aided blasts and some defensive miscues on the Nationals' part. Tanner Roark took the bulk of the damage, giving up a solo home by Johnny Monell, and after a two-out error, a two-run home run by Duda. 9-1 Mets, and 10-1 when Matt Reynolds doubled off Nats' right-hander Rafael Martin to drive in the runner Roark left on.
Tyler Moore doubled and scored in the ninth to make it 10-2, but that's how it ended.