5. Strasburg in San Diego: Heading into his first major league start in his hometown of San Diego, California on May 16, 2013, Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg was going through a rough stretch. After winning his first outing that season, with seven scoreless innings at home against the Miami Marlins, Strasburg went (0-5) over the next seven starts, with the Nats 1-6 over that stretch.
While it wasn't all necessarily on the no.1 pick of the 2009 Draft, his 3.61 ERA in 42 ⅓ IP in those outings wasn't indicative of what he was capable of doing on the mound.
Strasburg snapped that losing streak in Petco Park, going eight innings for the first time in his career to that point in a 6-2 win in which he held the Padres to two runs (one earned) on three hits in a 117-pitch effort.
"I felt great," Strasburg said after the outing. He was particularly happy to have finally gotten through the eighth inning of a major league start.
"I'm just glad [Davey] let me go back out there and get the monkey off my back," he said. "Hopefully I can get more experience getting deeper into a ballgame like that and get used to it."
Strasburg allowed two earned runs or less over his next starts after that outing, posting a 1.47 ERA over his next 43 innings on the mound.
That rough stretch at the start of the 2013 campaign was nothing like what he's going through now, of course. Bad as it was for him at times then, the start of his sixth major league season has been much worse.
Heading into his second career start in San Diego this afternoon in the series finale with the Padres, Strasburg had a a 6.06 ERA in seven starts with a 3.46 FIP, a .398 BABIP and a .327/.381/.464 line against in 35 ⅔ innings pitched and he hadn't made it through the fourth in either of his last two outings.
While a back/shoulder issue which he said resulted from altering his mechanics to compensate for an ankle injury he suffered this Spring led to his exit after three innings at home against the Marlins on May 5th, Strasburg thought he'd sorted things out before taking the mound in Chase Field last Tuesday, only to struggle with his command and give up eight hits and eight runs, seven earned in 3 ⅓ before Nats' skipper Matt Williams pulled the plug on Strasburg's seventh start of 2015.
"Embarrassed," Strasburg said after the outing. "I let the team down. It sucks. I’m just trying to go out there and help this team win some games. I didn’t do that tonight. I’ve just got to turn the page and get back on it tomorrow."
Williams told reporters he was confident Strasburg would bounce back from the rough stretch.
"I just know that he's got great stuff," Williams said. "His stuff will show itself in the end. We've got all the confidence in the world in him. It hasn't been his best stretch, but he's a competitor, he goes out there every fifth day, sixth day if we have an off day, and goes at them. So, the concern coming out of the last one was his health, and we think he passed that hurdle, which is good, so now he'll get back in the swing of it."
This afternoon in San Diego, Strasburg struck the first two batters out, though the 2-2 curve he threw by Abraham Almonte got by the batter and Nats' catcher Jose Lobaton, resulting in a runner on first. Almonte stole second with Matt Kemp at the plate, and was running when Kemp sent a grounder to second. Danny Espinosa made a sliding play and strong throw home, but Lobaton couldn't hang on to it, 1-0 Padres.
Justin Upton worked the count full, and walked to put two on with one out, but Yangervis Solarte sent a fly to left for out no.2, and Derek Norris K'd looking at a 97 mph 0-2 fastball to end a 31-pitch first inning.
Jedd Gyorko lined a hanging 1-2 curve to left for a leadoff single in the Padres' second, then took second base on a swinging bunt by Alexi Amarista, but Ian Kennedy took a 95 mph 1-2 heater for a called strike three, out no.2 and Strasburg's 4th K, and Cory Spangenberg whiffed on a 2-2 bender for out no.3 and K no.5. 17-pitch frame, 48 total.
Strasburg collected his sixth K on an 81 mph 2-2 curve that Matt Kemp fouled into Jose Lobaton's mitt for out no.2 of the Padres' third, but Justin Upton crushed a 95 mph 0-1 fastball, sending a towering shot out to left field in Petco Park for a 2-0 lead over the Nationals. A lineout to right from Yangervis Solarte ended an 18-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 66 pitches.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth pushed Strasburg at 76 pitches. A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 6th left him at 85 pitches with seven straight Padres retired.
Matt Kemp doubled by third in the first at bat of the Padres' sixth, bringing Justin Upton up with a runner in scoring position. Tanner Roark started warming up as Upton lined a 1-1 curve to center for a single that put runners on the corners with no one out.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 91 P, 59 S, 4/4 GO/FO.
4. Kennedy vs the Nationals: A hamstring injury in his first start this season landed Ian Kennedy on the DL, but he returned to the mound on April 25th. He's been hot and cold in the four starts following the injury, however, with two solid starts, against the Rockies and Giants, in which he allowed a three runs total on 10 hits, and two rough outings, against the Dodgers and Mariners, in which he surrendered 16 hits and 13 runs, all earned in two losses.
Kennedy, 30, took the mound in the series finale with the Washington Nationals in Petco Park with a 5.92 ERA, a 6.48 FIP, eight walks (2.96 BB/9) and 20 Ks (7.40 K/9) in 24 ⅓ IP this season over which opposing hitters have a combined .295/.362/.611 line against him.
Kennedy was making his seventh career start against the Nationals, having put up a 2.31 ERA and a .223/.278/.345 line against in the previous six outings, in which he walked seven (1.62 BB/9) and struck out 33 (7.62) in 39 IP.
Armed with a low 90s four-seamer (91.1 mph average velocity) and two seamer (90.7 mph average), knuckle curve (77.3 mph), changeup (83.2 mph) and slider (84.8 mph), Kennedy was generating swings and misses "at a career-high rate" early this season, as the Padres mentioned in their pregame notes on the matchup, with a 27.3% swinging strike percentage, which was tied for fifth best amongst qualified starters in the National League.
This afternoon in sunny San Diego, Kennedy got off to a good start with an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first vs the Nationals.
Bryce Harper took his 36th walk in 39 games in the first at bat of the second inning, but Ryan Zimmerman sent one back to the mound to start a 1-4-3 DP. Tyler Moore's groundout to short ended a 12-pitch frame that left Kennedy at 23 total after two.
A 17-pitch, 1-2-3 third put Kennedy at 40 pitches total after three, and he struck out the side in a 14-pitch fourth that left him at 54 pitches and 6 Ks.
Bryce Harper tripled to right in the first at bat of the Nats' fifth, connecting for a line drive that bounced off the base of the wall for the Nationals' first hit.
Ryan Zimmerman sent a hot-shot to third and beat the throw to first for the second straight hit off Kennedy. Tyler Moore stepped in with runners on the corners and no one out and popped out to second for out no.1. Jose Lobaton popped up to the infield too, leaving it up to Danny Espinosa, who took a 90 mph 0-1 fastball for a ride to right. Three-run home run, 3-2 Nationals. 23-pitch frame for Kennedy, 77 total.
Michael Taylor took a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth, and stole second with Ian Desmond at the plate. Desmond took the second straight walk from Kennedy. Yunel Escobar started up 3-0 and took the third straight walk, ending Kennedy's outing...
• Ian Kennedy's Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 91 P, 54 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
3. Early leads: The Nationals jumped on each of the last two starters the Padres sent to the mound early, knocking both Odrisamer Despaigne and Andrew Cashner around in the first for four runs on Friday night and three runs on Saturday before cruising to 10-0 and 4-1 wins in Petco Park. Asked what the key to coming out hot was, Williams said it was a matter of his hitters being prepared.
"Guys [are] ready to play," he told reporters last night.
"Ready to get going early. Good at bats early and we came up with some base hits when we needed to, against a tough guy [in Cashner]. Throws the ball good. We were able to have some good at bats early."
The lineup was a little different in the series finale, however, with Michael Taylor starting in center for Denard Span and leading off, and Tyler Moore filling in for the injured Jayson Werth in left.
With last night's win, the Nationals improved to 14-8 against the Padres since 2012, though San Diego held the lead in the overall series between the two teams with a 37-28 record against Washington since 2005.
The Padres took a 1-0 lead early today, and went up 2-0 on a solo home run by Justin Upton in the third, but Danny Espinosa's three-run blast in the fifth gave the visiting team the lead.
The Nationals got the line moving with three straight walks to start the sixth and ended up scoring four runs in the inning to take a 7-2 lead.
With a 10-5 win, the Nationals took three of four from the Padres in Petco Park and won their 15th in the last 19.
2. Turning Point(s): Stephen Strasburg collected his second strikeout from the first two batters he faced with a brutal diving curve to Abraham Almonte in the bottom of the first inning, but the pitch got by Jose Lobaton too and rolled to the backstop, allowing Almonte to reach first. The Padres' center fielder stole second in the next at bat and he was on the move when Matt Kemp sent a grounder back up the middle. Danny Espinosa made a sliding play to keep the ball in the infield, but Almonte scored when Lobaton failed to hold on to Espinosa's throw home. 1-0 Padres after one.
Strasburg left a 95 mph 0-1 fastball to Justin Upton up in the zone and gave up a solo home run to left that made it 2-0 Padres after three, but the Nationals rallied in the fifth with Bryce Harper tripling and Ryan Zimmerman singling in the first two at bats for the Nats' first hits of the game. Two outs later, with the runners still on the corners, Danny Espinosa took an 0-1 fastball for a ride to right field for a three-run blast that put the Nationals ahead. 3-2.
Ian Kennedy's outing ended after three straight walks started the sixth, and a bases-loaded swinging bunt by Bryce Harper gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead. They added three more runs on a sac fly by Ryan Zimmerman and a two-run double by Tyler Moore that made it 7-2 Nats after five and a half.
10-5 final in Petco Park.
1. The Wrap-Up: Padres' left-hander Frank Garces took over in the sixth with the bases loaded, no one out and Bryce Harper at the plate and gave up a swinging bunt that brought Taylor home, 4-2. Right-hander Dale Thayer came on to face Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a sac fly to left, 5-2 Nationals. Tyler Moore got hold of a 1-1 slider in the next at bat and drove it by third for a two-run double that made it 7-2 Nats.
Tanner Roark took over for the Nationals with runners on the corners and no one out in the sixth. Yangervis Solarte grounded into a force at second, but avoided the double play. 7-3. Derek Norris hit a fly to Michael Taylor in center for out no.2. Jedd Gyorko grounded into a force at second to end the sixth.
Ian Desmond and Yunel Escobar hit back-to-back singles off Padres' right-hander Dale Thayer in the top of the seventh, and Bryce Harper hit a three-run blast to left on an 92 mph 1-2 fastball. 10-3 Nationals.
Roark retired the Padres in order in the bottom of the seventh and set the first two down in the eighth before Justin Upton hit a solo home run to left for his second blast of the game. 10-4.
Bryce Harper got one more at bat in the top of the ninth with a runner on and two out and grounded out to first. 3 for 4 today.
Sammy Solis gave up a solo home run by Jedd Gyorko, 10-5.
Nationals now 22-17