5. Can Strasburg slay Giants?: In four starts since returning from a month-long DL stint for a neck/back issue, Stephen Strasburg was (3-0) with Washington 4-0 in his outings, over which the 27-year-old Nationals' righty put up a 1.19 ERA, four walks (1.59 BB/9) and 30 Ks (11.91 K/9) in 22 ⅔ innings pitched before tonight.
Opposing hitters have a .152/.193/.266 line against the '09 no.1 overall pick over that stretch.
In ten starts before that DL stint, during which Strasburg straightened out his mechanics after an ankle injury suffered in Spring Training left him out of sorts, opposing hitters had a .325/.377/.497 line against him, and he had a 6.55 ERA with 14 walks (2.78 BB/9) and 45 Ks (8.93 K/9) in 45 ⅓ IP.
Though he missed time between the third and fourth starts in his recent run, after suffering a left oblique strain in a July 4th outing (against the Giants), Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said this week he was happy with the results in Strasburg's first start back from his second DL stint of the season, a seven-inning, 12 K outing against the Colorado Rockies last week in D.C.
Strasburg gave up just three hits and one run, avoided any walks and threw 91 pitches before he was done.
"He looked very good," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen on Wednesday.
"His stuff looked good. His fastball was live, it had velocity, he had three pitches going for him. He was pounding the strike zone. He had a good tempo and a good rhythm on the mound and the most important thing is he felt good after the start. Felt very, very good. So we think that he's turned the corner since the ankle problem that he had and the ankle problem that caused the back problem and the other problems that he's had. So we think he's past that.
"He feels good about himself and hopefully he'll be very, very strong coming down the stretch and be a guy that we can really lean on as the season progresses."
Strasburg's win over the Rockies left him (6-5) on the year with a 4.76 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 18 walks (2.38 BB/9) and 75 Ks (9.93 K/9) in 68 IP this season, over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .271/.326/.431 line.
The Nationals needed Strasburg to help them get back on track tonight in the series opener with the Giants in San Francisco's AT&T Park, after they dropped two straight to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Strasburg took the mound in the bottom of the first with a 1-0 lead and gave up a leadoff triple to the right-center gap on a 96 mph 3-2 fastball to Gregor Blanco. Bryce Harper tracked it, but couldn't get to the liner and Giants' third baseman Matt Duffy stepped in next and sent an RBI single through the right side of the infield, 1-1.
Buster Posey shot a single through the left side for an RBI single that made it 2-1 Giants after a 26-pitch first.
Kelby Tomlinson tripled to center on a 3-1 fastball up in the zone in the first at bat of the bottom of the second, but a swinging K and grounder to second got Strasburg two outs without Tomlinson scoring.
Matt Duffy stepped in with two out and... sent a fly to right to end a scoreless 20-pitch frame. 46 total.
Buster Posey lined a first-pitch fastball up in the zone to center for a one-out double in the home-half of the third, but he was thrown out at home on a line drive to right by Hunter Pence when Bryce Harper came up throwing and sent a perfect throw home that beat the Giants' catcher to the plate. Not. Even. Close. Two down. An 0-2 curve got Brandon Crawford swinging for out no.3 of a 14-pitch third that left Strasburg at 60 pitches.
A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left Strasburg at 72 pitches. Brandon Belt took a two-out walk in the Giants' fifth, but was stranded at first when Buster Posey K'd swinging to end a 16-pitch frame. 88 total.
Brandon Crawford lined a 96 mph 0-1 fastball to left for a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but was forced out at second on a grounder to short off Justin Maxwell's bat. Kelby Tomlinson stepped in with one on and two out and sent a grounder up the middle that a spinning Ian Desmond handled. 13-pitch frame. 101 total.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 101 P, 63 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
4. Same old Vogelsong: San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong was ejected four innings into his July 5th start against the Washington Nationals in the nation's capital, when he started an argument with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
He'd given up three hits, three walks and one run to that point in what ended up a 3-1 loss for the Giants in which he received no decision.
In eight appearances since then, six of them in relief, the 38-year-old right-hander has put up a 5.17 ERA, five walks and 16 Ks in 15 ⅔ innings pitched, over which opposing hitters have a combined .290/.348/.532 line against him.
Vogelsong returned to the rotation in his last outing before tonight's, going four innings against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field and giving up six hits and three earned runs before he was lifted, having thrown a total of 82 pitches.
As a starter this season, the 11-year veteran was (6-7) in 17 starts, with a 4.12 ERA, a 4.80 FIP, 38 walks (3.64 BB/9) and 71 Ks (6.80 K/9) in 94 IP before tonight, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .228/.307/.414 line.
In his career, Vogelsong was (1-2) in 10 games (6 GS) and 34 ⅔ IP against the Nationals before facing them in the series opener with Washington in AT&T Park, with a .271/.363/.429 line against in those outings.
He got off to a rough start tonight, giving up a home run to left on the first pitch of the game. Yunel Escobar jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent it out to left on a line. 1-0. Vogelsong's third walk of the inning, on his 27th pitch, was a free pass to Ian Desmond that loaded the bases with two down, but Wilson Ramos grounded out to end the frame after 28 pitches.
A 13-pitch, two K, 1-2-3 second left Vogelsong at 42 pitches. He added two more strikeouts in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 56 pitches.
Ian Desmond walked and took third on a one-out single to center by Wilson Ramos, but Michael Taylor popped out to short right and Stephen Strasburg K'd swinging to end a 22-pitch frame at 78 total.
Bryce Harper singled to right with two out in the top of the fifth, but Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging to end a 16-pitch frame that left Vogelsong at 94 pitches.
• Ryan Vogelsong's Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 52 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: The Nationals swept their three-game series with the Giants in July, leaving them 36-31 vs San Francisco overall (since 2005) and 16-6 against the current second-place team in the NL West since 2012.
• #Wecandothisbat update: Since the All-Star Break, Ian Desmond has put up a .267/.327/.544 line with two doubles, a triple and seven home runs.
Come one, come all - the party & the game is on. I'm going all the way to eleven tonight pic.twitter.com/PbjmRZa0AA— Bill Walton (@BillWalton) August 13, 2015
• Heading into this long-weekend series in AT&T Park, Bryce Harper is leading the majors in SLG (.643) and he's leading the NL in home runs with 29. He's second in the majors in OBP (.456) and is third in the NL in walks (82).
• In 16 games since he returned for a DL stint for plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Ryan Zimmerman is 17 for 55 (.309 AVG), with seven doubles and four home runs in 16 games.
• Stephen Strasburg was (3-0) with a 2.76 ERA in 32 ⅔ IP against the Giants before tonight.
• Tonight's game was the Nationals' first in AT&T Park since they lost Game 4 of the NLDS last October.
• Since 2012, the Nationals are 6-4 in AT&T
• Buster Posey has hits in 12 of the last 13 games (18 for 48, .375 AVG) with two doubles and two home runs over that stretch.
2. Turning Point(s): The Washington Nationals were shut out in back-to-back losses to the Dodgers in LA, but one pitch in tonight they were up 1-0 after Yunel Escobar took a first-pitch fastball from San Francisco Giants' starter Ryan Vogelsong out to left for a solo home run, his eighth of the season.
• The first four Giants to step up in the home-half of the first reached base, however, with Gregor Blanco singling and scoring on a Matt Duffy single, and after a walk to Brandon Belt, Buster Posey driving Duffy in with a single to left that Jayson Werth misplayed as he was charging in. 2-1 Giants.
1. The Wrap-Up: Hunter Strickland took over on the mound for the Giants in the top of the sixth, and retired the side in order, striking out two in a nine-pitch frame. 18 total after two.
Felipe Rivero took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the seventh inning and issued a one-out walk to Gregor Blanco, who stole second in the next at bat, and scored one out later on a bloop single to left by Brandon Belt.
Blake Treinen took over for Rivero and got the third out of the frame.
Sergio Romo gave up a one-out single to right by Bryce Harper, who stole second one out later with Jayson Werth at the plate, but was stranded there when Werth struck out.
Treinen came back out for the Giants' eighth and retired the side in order in an 11-pitch frame.
Santiago Casilla came on for the save in the ninth and retired the first two batters he faced before Michael Taylor lined a double to left field to keep hope alivel. Pinch hitter Danny Espinosa stepped in next
Nationals now 58-56