An ingrown toenail and a rolled ankle slowed Stephen Strasburg's roll this Spring, causing him to miss two starts in Grapefruit League action, one of which was made up in a minor league game.
In the three official outings in which he took the mound before today, Washington's 26-year-old right-hander put up a 5.59 ERA (6 ER in 9 ⅔), four walks and nine Ks while holding opposing hitters to a .263 BAA.
Last time out, in a start against the same New York Mets he'll face in his first turn in the Nationals' rotation next Thursday, Strasburg gave up four hits, two home runs, four walks and four runs in 4 IP over which he threw 70 pitches total, 39 for strikes.
After the outing, the Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick said his ankle held up fine though he was a little rusty.
"'It was good to get the pitch count back up there,'" Strasburg told reporters, including the Washingon Post's James Wagner.
"'Obviously cruising early and then one bad inning. Got the pitches and I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better next time.'"
Nats' skipper Matt Williams said that coming off an extended rest, Strasburg looked good to him.
"'For me, he looked great,'" Williams said, as quoted by the WaPost reporter. "'It’s a little rust. You take that time off in the middle of the spring, you’re not going to be pinpoint coming back through it. But we got him through, which is good.'"
Strasburg took the mound this afternoon with a 3-0 lead courtesy of an RBI triple by Bryce Harper, an RBI single by Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI ground-rule double by Ian Desmond.
New Yankees' shortstop Didi Gregorius chased a brutal, diving, 2-2 change down and in for the second out of a scoreless 18-pitch first in which Strasburg worked around a two-out, line single to center by Brian McCann.
Michael Taylor Time: Michael Taylor was 1 for 2 today, and 20 for 61 this Spring after he lined a single to left off CC Sabathia with one down in the Nats' second, but Taylor was forced out on a grounder to short off Yunel Escobar's bat.
Garrett Jones popped out to center on Strasburg's second pitch of the second, but Chase Headley turned a fastball around and sent a screamer by Ryan Zimmerman at first for a one-out single. Chris Young fell behind 0-2 quickly, fouled off a few pitches, but K'd chasing another cruel changeup. A fly to Harper in right off Gregorio Petit's bat ended a 13-pitch second for Strasburg, who was up to 31 pitches overall.
Yankees' catcher John Ryan Murphy walked to start the bottom of the third, but he was doubled up one out later when Gregorius sent a chopper to short to start an inning-ending 6-4-3. Strasburg's 10-pitch third left him at 41 overall.
Brian McCann went down swinging over a 3-2 change in the first at bat of the Yankees' fourth. Mark Teixeira doubled to center on a 94 mph 2-2 fastball up in the zone away, hitting it off the center field wall on a bounce. Garrett Jones took a 2-2 curve for a called strike three, but Chase Headley lined a two-out RBI double to right-center to get the Yankees on the board. 3-1. Chris Young reached on an infield single with two down, but an otherwordly drifting 1-2 change inside got Petit swinging for the final out of the frame. 14-pitch inning, 65 overall.
A 10-pitch fifth inning, in which he pitched around a one-out single by Ben Gamel, left Strasburg at 75 total.
Jonathan Galvez went down swinging at another diving changeup. Strasburg walked Slade Heathcott on four pitches in the next at bat, and that prompted Matt Williams to come out and make a change.
The eight-pitch frame left him at 83 overall for the day.
Strasburg's Line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 83 P, 3/6 GO/FO.
Tanner Roark finished the sixth, and the Nationals added to their lead in the top of the seventh with Matt den Dekker walking, stealing second and scoring on an RBI double by Nats' Minor League infielder Josh Johnson, 4-1.
Mike Carp hit his first home run of the Spring later in the inning, taking a fastball from right-hander Nick Goody out to center field and over the fence for a three-run blast that made it 7-1 Nationals. 8 for 38 in 20 games.
Roark retired the Yankees in order in the seventh. Matt Thornton made quick work of the Yankees in the eighth.
The Nationals added a run in the top of the ninth and took the Grapefruit League finale, 8-2 when Xavier Cedeno and Aaron Barrett finished New York off.
BTW: We stopped by Nationals Park for a quick look this morning...