5. Strasburg in Marlins Park: Last Sunday in D.C., in his third start of the 2015 campaign, Stephen Strasburg held Philadelphia Phillies' hitters to a run on five hits and two walks in 7 ⅓ IP, striking out seven in a 95-pitch effort in which he earned his first win.
Both Strasburg and Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams were happy with the outing, which started with seven scoreless before the Phillies got on the board.
It followed two less-than-impressive 5 ⅓-inning starts (against the Mets and Red Sox, respectively) in which he gave up 19 hits and 11 runs (8 ER) in 10 ⅔ IP total, with opposing hitters posting a combined .373/.429/.451 line against him.
Facing the Phillies, however, Strasburg was solid. Or as Williams put it, possibly as good as he's seen him.
"That may be as good as I've seen him," the Nats' second-year skipper said.
"He pitched at 92-93 [mph] and was able to reach back when he needed it for 95+. So, I think for me, that makes his changeup even more effective. Today he threw it for strikes when he wanted to. Out of the zone when he needed to.
"I don't know if I've seen him better than that. Pitch count was down. If he didn't give up that run there and he still had no runs against him he may have gone back out. Really good. It's as good as I've seen him."
Strasburg was asked about his efficiency, which he said was at least in part because of the Phillies.
"They were swinging early, it's kind of part of it," he explained. You want them to put the ball in play, four pitches or less and they were doing that."
This afternoon, Strasburg was taking on another familiar foe, making his 20th career start against the Miami Marlins, against whom he was (9-5) before today, with a 3.44 ERA, 32 walks and 101 Ks in 102 IP, over which he'd held Fish hitters to a combined .220/.284/.350 line.
In Marlins Park, he was just (3-4) in seven starts though, with a 5.59 ERA and a .271/.344/.403 line against.
His eighth career start in the Marlins' home, which opened in 2012, began with an infield "single" by Dee Gordon, who reached on a grounder to short that Ian Desmond couldn't backhand though the shortstop got a glove on it.
With Martin Prado at the plate, Gordon tried to steal second, but was thrown out by Wilson Ramos on a call that withstood the Marlins' early challenge. Prado worked the count full and lined out to right for out no.2.
Giancarlo Stanton singled to left with one down, but Marcell Ozuna failed to check his swing on an 0-2 curve in the dirt. 18-pitch frame. 0-0 after one.
Justin Bour took a leadoff walk from Strasburg in the first at bat of the second, but he was stranded on the basepaths after a fly to right by J.T. Realmuto and a double play grounder from Ichiro. 14-pitch frame. 32 total.
Adeiny Hechavarria walked back to the third base dugout after taking a front door 2-2 bender for a called strike three. Tom Koehler K'd swinging over an 0-2 curve for out no.2. Dee Gordon came up with two out and grounded weakly to second to end a quick, 13-pitch frame by Strasburg, who was up to 45 overall.
Martin Prado took a 95 mph 2-1 fastball to right-center for a leadoff double in the Marlins' fourth. Stanton tore in a 95 mph 1-1 heater, and sent an RBI line drive double to left field to make it 1-0 Miami. Stanton tagged and took third on a fly to right by Marcell Ozuna and scored on an RBI single to right by Justin Bour. 2-0. J.T. Realmuto sent a grounder to second for what should have been an inning-ending DP, but Danny Espinosa bobbled it and dropped the ball as he went to step on second. No outs recorded and two on for Ichiro, who singled to left to load them up.
Adeiny Hechavarria stepped in next and grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3. 18-pitch frame. 63 total.
Tom Koehler took a 2-2 fastball for a called strike three. Dee Gordon K'd swinging over an 80 mph 1-2 curve in the dirt. Martin Prado stepped in with two down and K'd swinging at an 0-2 change. 13-pitch frame. 76 total.
Stanton walked to start the fifth and moved into scoring position on a single to left by Marcell Ozuna. Justin Bour was first-pitch swinging and he sent an RBI single to center to make it 3-0 Fish. With runners on first and third, Realmuto stepped in grounded into a 4-6-3. One run scored on the double play though, 4-0 Marlins. Ichiro grounded out to second to end a 21-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 97 pitches.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 97 P, 61 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
4. Calm Bryce Harper: Bryce Harper was 2 for 2 with a walk and two runs batted in last night in the series opener with the Marlins in Miami. He bunted his way on in the second, hit a sac fly to center in the fourth, and singled on a line drive to right in the sixth, driving Denard Span for the second. He also collected another outfield assist on an ill-advised attempt to run on him by Dee Gordon.
The walk, in his final plate appearance in the eighth, gave Harper a major league-leading 16 free passes on the young season.
Nationals' skipper Matt Williams talked again after the game about how calm the 22-year-old outfielder has been at the plate this season.
"More of the same," Williams said. "When he's calm he's good. The ball he hit to right-center, they're shading him over there, otherwise that's sets up for a bigger inning for us. But it was a nice play. Hit that ball good too though, for the sac fly."
Harper wasn't happy with the overall outcome, however, which saw the Nationals drop their third straight game.
"It's not fun," he told reporters. "You want to win ballgames. Especially when you're in dogfights like that. Jordan [Zimmermann] threw such a great game that I think he was able to win that game."
The offense, Harper said, just had to keep doing what they're doing, knowing the results will come.
"Just trying to get guys on base, get them over and get'em in. Just trying to play baseball. Just got to try to get guys on. If it calls for a bunt here and there then you've got to do that too. It's rough, but we'll keep plugging along, keep playing and keep doing what we need to do."
In the second game of three in Marlins Park, where Harper had a career .280/.346/.452 line in 25 games after last night, he K'd looking in his first at bat against Tom Koehler, taking a 95 mph 3-2 fastball for a called strike three.
Harper led off the fourth with a groundout to second, 0 for 2.
Jayson Werth singled in front of Harper in the top of the sixth, and Harper took the first walk of the day from Harper. Seventeen total on the season. Harper was forced out at second in the next at bat, however, when Dee Gordon dove for a grounder up the middle off Ryan Zimmerman's bat and tossed it to Adeiny Hechavarria at second.
0 for 2 w/ a walk.
Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate in the eighth with two on and two out against right-hander Bryan Morris.
Harper got back to 2-2 after starting down 0-2, but K'd looking at a 95 mph inker inside. 0 for 3, BB, K.
3. Key Matchup: Miami Marlins' slugger Giancarlo Stanton entered today's game 10 for 28 (.357/.438/.857) with five doubles, three home runs, four walks and 10 Ks in 32 career plate appearances against Nationals' righty Stephen Strasburg.
At Bat no.1: The first matchup between the two tonight came with the bases empty and two out in the bottom of the first inning. Stanton improved to 11 for 29 after he ripped into an 0-1 curve and sent a single screaming through short.
At Bat no.2: Martin Prado lined a double to right in front of Stanton in the home-half of the fourth, giving the big lug a runner in scoring position for his second at bat. Stanton ripped into a 95 mph 1-1 fastball, sending another scorcher to left for an RBI double that made it 1-0 Marlins.
At Bat no.3: Stanton led off in the Marlins' sixth, starting up 3-0 before taking a called strike on a 95 mph heater. Strasburg missed with the next pitch, however, and issued his second walk of the game. 2 for 2 w/ a walk.
Updated matchup #s: 12 for 30 (.400 AVG), six doubles, three home runs, five walks and 10 Ks.
2. Turning Point(s): Miami rallied with three straight one-out hits off Stephen Strasburg in the home-half of the fourth, with Martin Prado doubling then scoring on an RBI double to left by Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton scored on a single to right field by Fish first baseman Justin Bour and the Marlins had Stephen Strasburg in serious trouble. Strasburg got a double play grounder from J.T. Realmuto in the next at bat, but Danny Espinosa bobbled it, then dropped it when he tried to get at least one out at second. Frustrated as he appeared, Strasburg, after giving up a base-loading single by Ichiro Suzuki, got a double play out of hot-hitting shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria there, to limit the damage to the two runs.
The Marlins added two more in the sixth, however, so Strasburg's ability to do damage there only helped so much.
1. The Wrap-Up: Blake Treinen took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh and threw a scoreless 16-pitch frame.
A one-out, eight-inning single by Yunel Escobar ended Tom Koehler's night. Bryan Morris came on to face Ian Desmond and struck him out with a high (as in ball four) 3-2 heater for the second out of the frame. Jayson Werth singled to right with two down to bring Bryce Harper up, but Harper K'd looking to end the frame. Still 4-0 Marlins.
Make that 5-0 after Giancarlo Stanton took Rafael Martin deeeeeeeeep to left on a 2-2 slider. HR no.5 for Stanton. 5-0 Fish. And 8-0 after a three-run blast to left by Adeiny Hechavarria set off the Red Grooms' psychedelic home run machine. That's how it ended...
Nationals now 7-11