5. Strasburg vs San Francisco: During his weekly appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant and Danny Show, Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo was asked for his thoughts on post-DL stint Stephen Strasburg, who's won both starts since he returned to the rotation, posting a 1.50 ERA with two walks (1.50 BB/9) and 15 Ks (11.25 K/9) in 12 IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .178/.213/.267 line.
So what's different for the right-hander who had an ankle issue this Spring that led to back problems which left him (3-5) with a 6.55 ERA, 14 walks (2.78 BB/9), 45 Ks (8.93 K/9) and a .325/.377/.497 line against in 10 starts and 45 ⅓ IP before he landed on the Disabled List?
"I think it's mechanical," Rizzo said.
"Delivery is smoother, more on line, more comfortable. He's not looking for a landing place to ease the pain of the ankle and that type of thing. So I think that has a lot to do with it and with some success and when you're feeling good, you're always more confident and I think that's a part of it too."
Rizzo also stressed the fact that through all his early season issues, there were reasons to believe that Strasburg would be able to straighten things out.
"When we saw him throwing, the velocity was good," Rizzo explained, "the spin rate was good, the breaking balls were good, so we just wanted to make sure that we got him healthy and got the delivery and the mechanical thing under [control] and feeling good about himself and we knew that results would follow shortly thereafter."
In his third start back this afternoon, Strasburg was facing San Francisco for the sixth time in his career after going (3-0) with a 3.10 ERA, 10 walks (3.10 BB/9) and 33 Ks (10.24 K/9) in 29 IP in the previous five outings, over which he'd held Giants' hitters to a combined .231/.296/.356 line.
Strasburg's 13th start of the 2015 campaign began with an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first. Given a 3-0 lead to work with after home runs by Michael Taylor and Bryce Harper in the home-half of the first, Strasburg came back out and gave up a one-out walk to Brandon Belt, who was subsequently picked off first on a snap throw by Wilson Ramos. A swinging K by Brandon Crawford ended Strasburg's second scoreless after 13 pitches. 24 total after two.
Justin Maxwell lined a single to right with one down for the Giants' first hit off Strasburg and Gregor Blanco walked with two outs after a seven-pitch battle, but Joe Panik grounded into a force at second to end a long-ish 22-pitch third. 46 total.
Strasburg started locating his offspeed stuff in the fourth, but nine pitches into the fourth, the right-handed starter was removed from the game after a long talk on the mound with Nats' manager Matt Williams and trainer Lee Kuntz.
No word from the Nationals on what was bothering him. More info when it's available...
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 56 P, 36 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
4. Bumgarner vs Washington: The Nationals handed 25-year-old Giants' left-hander Madison Bumgarner his only postseason loss last October, scoring three runs (two earned) on six hits in Game 3 of the NLDS in AT&T, though it was a throwing error by San Francisco's '07 first-round pick that broke things open in what was a scoreless game through six innnings.
Bumgarner went on to win three of his next five starts, with the Giants 5-0 in those outings, including the decisive Game 7 of the World Series, posting a 0.98 ERA and a .145/.185/.242 line against in 36 ⅔ innings pitched.
He's off to a strong start this season too, after a (18-10), +4.1 fWAR campaign in 2014 in which he put up a 2.98 ERA, a 3.05 FIP, 43 walks (2.77 BB/9), 219 Ks (8.90 K/9) and a .235/.281/.372 line against in 201 ⅓ IP .
In 16 starts this season, before today, Bumgarner was (8-4) with a 2.99 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 20 walks (1.66 BB/9) and 110 Ks (9.14 K/9) in 108 ⅓ IP, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .228/.272/.356 line.
In seven regular season outings before today's, Bumgarner was (2-3) against the Nationals, with a 2.60 ERA, seven walks and 40 Ks in 45 IP, holding Nats' hitters to a combined .246/.286/.374 line.
Bumgarner took the mound this afternoon in the nation's capital and gave up a solo home run to left on the first pitch he threw to Michael Taylor. Gone! Yunel Escobar doubled to center on pitch no.2. Bryce Harper stepped in next and homered to right on pitch no.5. Gone. Line drive into the right field bullpen. 3-0 Nationals. No.25 for Harper.
Wilson Ramos singled to left for the fourth straight hit in seven pitches, but was stranded three outs later at the end of a 20-pitch first.
Bumgarner bounced back with two Ks in an 18-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 38 pitches total after two. A seven-pitch, 1-2-3 third left the Giants' lefty at 45 pitches.
Clint Robinson singled to start the Nationals' fourth, but was forced out at second base on a grounder to short off of Danny Espinosa's bat. Espinosa scored from first one out later, however, when Tyler Moore doubled to left-center field. 4-0 Nationals on Moore's 6th double of the year. 20-pitch frame for Bumgarner, 65 total after four.
Bryce Harper walked with two out in the home-half of the fifth, but a groundout by Wilson Ramos ended an 11-pitch frame that left Bumgarner at 76 pitches.
Clint Robinson doubled to start the Nationals' half of the sixth. Danny Espinosa reached on a grounder to third in the next at bat that bounced off Matt Duffy to Brandon Crawford at short, but Crawford through to first where Brandon Belt was off the bag. That was it for Bumgarner...
• Madison Bumgarner's Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 86 P, 54 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: Last night's loss was the Giants' fourth straight after they dropped all three games of their series in Miami. Going into the 4th of July game in D.C., San Francisco was on a five-game road losing streak and they had lost seven of their last ten away from AT&T Park.
• The Giants were averaging 4.93 runs per game on the road after 40 games, including last night's 2-1 loss, the third-highest average runs per game in the majors, behind only the Toronto Blue Jays (5.21) and the Houston Astros (5.00).
• The Giants, as a team, had a .281 AVG on the road after last night's game, the best team average in the majors.
• Both Gregor Blanco and Giants' C/1B Buster Posey extended their personal hit streaks last night, Blanco to ten games (17 for 36, .472 AVG) and Posey to nine games (14 for 33, .424 AVG).
Posey extended his streak to ten games with a one-out single to right in the seventh.
Blanco's RBI double in the eighth gave him hits in eleven straight games.
• The Giants' offense entered today's game with the highest team batting average in the NL, .270; the second-highest OBP (.328) and third-highest slugging percentage (.407).
• Giants' starter Madison Bumgarner took the mound this morning, not having allowed a single stolen base this season... with the last stolen base off him last August 21st.
• Denard Span didn't start in today's game, but after last night, he had a 23-game on-base streak going over which he was (29 for 91, .319 AVG) with four doubles, fourteen walks, eight stolen bases and a .415 OBP.
• Bryce Harper's home run in the first drove in two for his 59th and 60th RBIs of the year, a new career-high for the 22-year-old slugger.
2. Turning Point(s): What a first on the 4th! A home run by Michael Taylor on the first pitch of the game. A double (that should have been a triple) on pitch no.2 and a two-run blast to right on the fifth pitch of the afternoon from Giants' lefty Madison Bumgarner made it 3-0 Nationals before an out was recorded.
Best DC fireworks of 4th already over. Bumgarner's 1st 7 pitches: Taylor homer, Escobar double off 402', Harper homer to RF, Ramos single.— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) July 4, 2015
• Tyler Moore doubled in a run in the fifth to make it 4-0 Nationals and a double by Clint Robinson and "infield single" by Danny Espinosa in the sixth knocked Bumgarner out of the game.
1. The Wrap-Up: Tanner Roark recorded the final out of the Giants' fourth after taking over on the mound for Stephen Strasburg and retired the Giants in order in an 11-pitch fifth. Roark retired the side in order again in a 13-pitch sixth.
Yusmeiro Petit took over for San Francisco with two on and no one out in the Nats' sixth, and got a force at second on an Ian Desmond grounder for the first out of the frame, but Tyler Moore doubled to left field on a hard-hit grounder by third to make it 6-0 Nationals.
Buster Posey lined a single to right with one down in the seventh, giving himself a 10-game hit streak, and he took third on a double to left by Brandon Belt, before scoring on a sac fly to center by Brandon Crawford. 6-1 Nationals after six and a half.
Yunel Escobar singled and took third on a Bryce Harper double to the right-center gap in the next at bat in the Nats' seventh. Wilson Ramos popped out to second for the first out of the frame, so the Giants walked Clint Robinson to load the bases in front of Danny Espinosa, who took an unintentional walk to force in the seventh run of the game, 7-1 Nationals. 8-1 on a sac fly by Ian Desmond. 9-1 on an RBI single by Tyler Moore.
Back-to-back doubles by Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco hit back-to-back doubles in the eighth with Adrianza scoring the second run of the game for the Giants' on Blanco's 12th two-base hit of the year. 9-2.
Jean Machi came on for the Nationals' eighth and worked around a two-out single by Bryce Harper for a scoreless frame.
Casey Janssen came out for some work in the ninth and hit Andrew Susac with the third pitch he threw. Brandon Belt's double to center brought Susac around to make it 9-3. That's how it ended.
Happy 4th of July, everyone.
Nationals now 45-36