5. You're going to be o.k.! You're going to be o.k.!!: Stephen Strasburg left his sixth start of the season, against the Miami Marlins last Tuesday in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park, after just three innings in which he threw a total of 64 pitches. Strasburg didn't look comfortable on the mound, grimacing noticably after delivering several pitches to the point that skipper Matt Williams and the Nats' trainer eventually visited him on the mound.
After the game, Williams said that the problem was, "... a little issue underneath his shoulder blade."
"Had it last start," Williams explained. "Could be an alignment issue. But as he finishes pitches it grabs him every once in a while.
"Tonight it got a little bit worse. So we'll have to have the chiropractor look at him. Shoulder is good, elbow is good."
Strasburg later explained that it was more of an alignment issue in his back cause compensating for an ankle injury he sustained during Spring Training.
The visit to the chiropractor, he said, cleared things up and he was able to throw a bullpen session with no further problems.
"No problems," Strasburg told reporters. "I actually threw for the first time without having my ankle taped up and it was more of a mental thing, felt good. Ankle didn't feel bad, and I think it kind of helped my alignment a little bit better."
"The issue that I had was corrected within was 45 minutes of seeing the chiropractor," Strasburg said. "And ever since then it hasn't been an issue and the biggest thing is addressing the other things that kind of led to it."
In spite of the fact that he got all his between-starts work in, the Nationals decided to push Strasburg back a day, going with Max Scherzer in the series opener last night.
In the second game of the Nats' three-game set in Chase Field, Strasburg was facing the Diamondbacks for the seventh time in his career after going (3-1) in the first six outings, with a 2.25 ERA, nine walks (2.03 BB/9) and 31 Ks (6.98 K/9) in 40 IP over which he held D-Backs' hitters to a combined .203/.253/.294 line.
Strasburg took the mound with a 4.73 ERA, a 2.77 FIP, 10 walks (2.78 BB/9), 32 Ks (8.91 K/9), a .309/.369/.766 line against and a .398 BABIP-against, which the Nationals mentioned in their pregame notes, would lead the majors if he had enough innings pitched to qualify for the leaderboard.
There were no signs of any issues early in Strasburg's outing, with the fastball humming at 96-97 when he took the mound in the first, though he did miss high with a 3-1 fastball to Paul Goldschmidt, walking the D-Backs' slugger with two down. David Peralta lined a 96 mph 2-2 fastball to left for a two-out single in the next at bat. Aaron Hill stepped in with a runner in scoring position, and lined a two-run double to right-center on a high fastball to make it 2-0 Arizona early in Chase Field. 26-pitch first for Strasburg.
There was a delay with one down in the second when home plate umpire Kerwin Danley was just about knocked out by a fouled off fastball that caught him in the mask. Danley left the game. Strasburg retired the next two batters once play resumed and completed a 12-pitch frame at 38 overall.
Ender Inciarte hit his first home run of the season out to right field on a 95 mph 0-1 fastball in the first at bat of the D-Backs' third, 3-1.
Strasburg struck Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt out in the next two at bats before David Peralta lined a two-out single to left field. Aaron Hill grounded out to first, however, ending a 14-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 52 pitches.
Chris Owings tripled to center on a 1-0 slider up on the zone from Strasburg in the first at bat of the D-Backs' fourth after the Nationals rallied to get within one at 3-2. Tuffy Gosewisch drove him in with a line drive single to left, 4-2.
Nick Ahmed followed with the third straight single, and Strasburg dropped a bunt by Rubby De La Rosa, leaving everyone safe and the bases loaded with no one out. Ender Inciarte hit a sac fly to center to make it 5-3, and a slider up in the zone to Mark Trumbo ended up in the left field seats. Three-run home run, 8-2 D-Backs.
That was it for Strasburg...
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 72 P, 48 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
4. Rubby De La Rosa's Turn: Acquired from Boston this past December in the trade that sent Wade Miley to the Red Sox, 26-year-old Diamondbacks' right-hander Rubby De La Rosa, (who was a part of the big Boston/Los Angeles Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett deal in 2012 after signing with the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2007), entered tonight's game with a 4.38 ERA, a 4.01 FIP, 10 walks (2.43 BB/9), 38 Ks (9.24 K/9) and a .234/.283/.433 line against after 37 IP in his first season in Arizona.
The D-Backs' 6'1'' righty, who features four-seamer that averages 93.6 mph, a two-seamer at 93.1, changeup (85.5) that he learned from Pedro Martinez, a slider (83.1) and curve (78.9), was dominating righties early, holding right-handed hitters to a .186/.230/.300 line, while left-handers were giving him trouble (.282/.333/.563).
At home in Chase Field, De La Rosa was (2-0) in three starts before tonight's with a 3.26 ERA and a .211/.250/.408 line against before taking the mound in the second game of the three-game set with the visiting Nationals.
His fourth start of the season in the D-Backs' home park began with a leadoff single to left-center by Denard Span, but a 1-4-6-3 DP and a groundout to short followed in a scoreless 11-pitch first.
Ryan Zimmerman lined a double to center with one down in the second, getting one by a diving Ender Inciarte, but two outs later he was stranded and De La Rosa was through two scoreless on 23 pitches after a 12-pitch frame.
Danny Espinosa walked to start the Nats' third, then took second on a sac bunt by Stephen Strasburg. Denard Span came up with a runner in scoring position and worked the count full before lining an RBI double to left-center to cut the D-Backs' lead in half, 2-1. 18-pitch frame, 41 total after three.
Bryce Harper battled for eight pitches before lining a leadoff double to right-center in the Nationals' fourth and took third when Ryan Zimmerman lined a single to center, before scoring on a double play grounder off Wilson Ramos' bat. 3-2 D-Backs. 12-pitch frame for De La Rosa, 54 total.
Given a six-run lead to work with, De La Rosa worked around a one-out single for a scoreless nine-pitch fifth which left him at 63 pitches.
Jayson Werth lined a single to center to start the sixth, and Bryce Harper went down for a 2-2 change and golfed it out right field for a two-run blast that chipped away at the D-Backs' lead, 10-4. No.12 for Harper. De La Rosa retired the next three batters. 14-pitch frame, 77 total.
Denard Span took a two-out walk in the Nats' seventh, but Yunel Escobar grounded out to end a 13-pitch inning that left De La Rosa at 90 pitches.
• Rubby De La Rosa's Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 90 P, 62 S, 12/2 GO/FO.
3. Dominating the D-Backs?: Last night's win in the series opener in Arizona left Washington 11-3 in their last 14 games against the Diamondbacks with a six-game win streak against the NL West franchise which dated back to last May 13th, when they lost the second game of a three-game set in Chase Field, but took 2 of 3 in the series.
The Nationals took four straight from the D-Backs in D.C. last August, three of them with walk-off winners, and they entered tonight's game with a five-game win streak going overall and wins in 8 of their last 10 and 11 of their last 13 after a six-game losing streak between April 22-27.
Matt Williams has talked all season (and since he took over on the bench in Washington) about continuing to create opportunities with the belief that eventually the Nationals' talented lineup would cash them in.
In the series opener last night, Nationals' hitters jumped all over right-hander Josh Collmenter, with Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman homering in the first and the Nats going 6 for 12 with runners in scoring position overall in what ended up an 11-1 win.
"We've had some games where we've created some opportunities early and have gotten one or maybe two," Williams said after the win.
"But tonight we got big hits. Zim, [Bryce Harper] just missed one. We got some opportunities early and took advantage and Max [Scherzer] pitched great."
• It didn't go nearly as well for the Nationals in the second game of three in Chase Field.
Stephen Strasburg was out early and the D-Backs were up 10-2 after five. The Nats' win five-game win streak this season came to an end as did their six-game win streak against Arizona.
2. Turning Point(s): Stephen Strasburg looked healthy on the mound, but with two down in the first he issued a two-out walk to Paul Goldschmidt and a two-out single to left by D-Backs' outfielder David Peralta, setting Aaron Hill up with two on and two out and Arizona's second baseman came through with a two-run double to right-center field that gave Arizona a 2-0 lead early.
The Nationals picked up a run in the third on an RBI double to left by Denard Span, but the D-Backs came right back with a run in the bottom of the inning when Ender Inciarte hit his first home run of the season out to right on a 95 mph fastball from Strasburg. 3-1 Diamondbacks.
The Nationals scored another run in the top of the fourth when Bryce Harper doubled and scored on a double play grounder by Wilson Ramos, but the Diamondbacks came right back again against Stephen Strasburg in the home-half of the inning with Chris Owings tripling to start the frame and scoring on a single by catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, 4-1.
Nick Ahmed connected for the third straight hit and an error by Strasburg loaded the bases. A sac fly made it 5-2 and a three-run home run by Mark Trumbo ended Strasburg's outing with the score 8-2 Arizona...
It just got worse from there...
1. The Wrap-Up: Sammy Solis took over on the mound in the fourth, retiring the first two batters he faced, then hit his first MLB hit up the middle for a one-out single in the Nats' fifth.
Aaron Hill singled and Chris Owings doubled in the first two at bats of the D-Backs' fifth, putting runners on second and third with no one out. Solis struck Tuffy Gosewisch out then walked Nick Ahmed intentionally to load the bases only to have the opposing pitcher hit an RBI single to right, 9-2. A sac fly made it 10-2 before Solis got out of the frame.
Mark Trumbo took a 92 mph 2-2 fastball out to left on a line for a solo home run in the first at bat of the D-Backs' 6th, 11-4.
The D-Backs loaded the bases with one down in the sixth inning and Matt Grace on the mound and a wild pitch let the 12th run in, 12-4. Tuffy Gosewisch's sac fly to left made it 13-4. A Nick Ahmed single made it 14-4.
Aaron Barrett threw a quick, scoreless, 1-2-3 seventh.
Clint Robinson... yes, Clint Robinson threw a scoreless eighth inning in his MLB debut as a pitcher. That kind of night...
The Nationals added two runs in the ninth, 14-6 D-Backs. That's how it ended.
Nationals now 18-16