5. Strasburg in Coors Field: In his first start back following more than a month on the Disable List with a left oblique strain, Stephen Strasburg struck out 12 batters in seven innings against the Colorado Rockies in which he gave up three hits and one run, on a home run by Nolan Arenado, in what ended up a 6-1 win for Washington.
"Fastball command was there," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said after Strasburg's win over the Rockies.
"Curveball command was there, and he threw some really good changeups as well to the lefties."
"Early on, if he's got fastball down and away to the right-hander... then he's got a lot of weapons," Williams explained.
"Climbed the ladder a couple of times on fastballs as well, but he felt good coming in and the last time out he felt great in his rehab start, so I thought he was in command all night."
Strasburg followed that outing up with a six-inning start against the San Francisco Giants in which he gave up seven hits and two earned runs, striking out eight in six innings of work in a 3-1 loss.
"Stephen pitched okay," Williams said after the outing in AT&T Park. "Had a rough first inning himself, but settled down after that as well, just couldn't put anything together."
In five starts since he returned from his first DL stint of the season (for neck tightness), Strasburg has put up a 1.57 ERA, six walks (1.40 BB/9), 38 Ks (8.84 K/9) and a .184/.229/.320 line against in 38 ⅔ IP.
On the year, he was (6-6) with a 4.62 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 20 walks (2.43 BB/9) and 83 Ks (10.09 K/9) in 74 IP over which opposing hitters have a .273/.327/.437 line before taking the mound in Colorado tonight.
His second start of the month against the Rockies began with a 10-pitch battle against Rockies' leadoff man Charlie Blackmon that ended with a single to right. Blackmon was caught leaving early and tagged out at second, however, with Jose Reyes at the plate. Reyes popped out and Carlos Gonzalez chased a 3-2 change out of the zone to end a 19-pitch first.
Ben Paulsen sent a sharp grounder to first with one down in the Rockies' second, and it got past Ryan Zimmerman, bouncing by his glove for a "double" that was ruled an E:3. Strasburg got a groundout from DJ LeMahieu for out no.2, but bounced a curve to Nick Hundley that got by Wilson Ramos, allowing Paulsen to score from third. 1-0 Colorado after a 22-pitch inning. 41 total.
An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 third left Strasburg at 52 pitches.
Nolan Arenado singled to center on a 1-2 bender with two out in the bottom of the fourth, but Ben Paulsen grounded to second to end a 17-pitch frame. 69 total for Strasburg after four.
An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left the Nationals' starter at 77 pitches.
After the Nationals failed to score in the top of the sixth, in spite of putting runners on second and third with no one out, Strasburg (who K'd swinging with the bases loaded to end the frame, came back out with a six-pitch, 1-2-3 innings that left him at 83 total, still down 1-0.
A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left Strasburg at 93 pitches, with ten straight Rockies' hitters set down.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 93 P, 68 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
4. De La Rosa at home: The last time the Washington Nationals faced Colorado Rockies' lefty Jorge De La Rosa in Coors Field, the veteran left-hander gave up eight hits and two runs, one earned, in 7 ⅓ innings pitched, over which he struck out eleven.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked after what ended up a 6-4 loss for the Nationals, about how the then-33-year-old left-hander pitched to his home park.
"He knows how to pitch here," William explained. "He's [got] a surprising fastball when he needs it, but he relies on his changeup a lot, and that's a great strategy here. He's the ability to throw it for a strike when he needs to and off the zone when he needs to. I've seen that a number of times, unfortunately."
The Nationals faced De La Rosa, now 34, earlier this month in the nation's capital and got much better results, with six hits and four runs, three earned in six innings of a 5-4 win for the Rockies in which De La Rosa walked two and struck out just one but received no decision.
After a loss in his one turn in the rotation between the outing D.C. and tonight's start, De La Rosa was left (7-5) on the year with a 4.75 ERA, a 4.24 FIP, 50 walks (4.09 BB/9) and 100 Ks (8.18 K/9) in 110 IP, over which opposing hitters have put up a combined .243/.328/.416 line against him.
At home in Coors Field this season, he's put up a 6.62 ERA in 50 ⅓ (vs 3.17 in 59 ⅔ away from Colorado), a 5.03 FIP (vs 3.58) and a .274/.368/.497 line against (vs .215/.290/.341).
Tonight in the first inning of the second game of three with the Nationals in Denver, CO, De La Rosa gave up back-to-back, two-out singles by Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar, but got a grounder to third and a force at second on a roller off Ian Desmond's bat that ended a scoreless 21-pitch frame.
Ryan Zimmerman walked to start the second, but Michael Taylor grounded into a 5-4-3 DP in the next AB.
Wilson Ramos took a two-out walk from the Rockies' lefty, but De La Rosa got a fly to right from Stephen Strasburg to end a 19-pitch second. 40 total after two.
Given a 1-0 lead to work with, De La Rosa retired the Nats in order in a 10-pitch third. 50 total. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Taylor took back-to-back two-out walks in the Nationals' fourth, but Wilson Ramos grounded out to second to end a 21-pitch inning that left De La Rosa at 71 pitches.
Jayson Werth shot a double by third on a sharp grounder with one out in the Nationals' half of the fifth, and the Nats' veteran outfielder took third base on a groundout to second by Danny Espinosa, but was stranded there when Bryce Harper K'd swinging at a 2-2 splitter to end an 18-pitch fifth. 89 total.
Yunel Escobar took the fifth walk of the game from De La Rosa to start the sixth, and Ian Desmond took a 2-0 splitter to left on a line for a double that gave the Nationals runners on second and third with no one out.
Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with a chance to tie it and went down swinging at a 1-2 fastball up high. De La Rosa put Michael Taylor on to get to Wilson Ramos, who stepped in with a .290/.306/.390 line with RISP and lined out to short. Two down. Stephen Strasburg stayed in to hit and struck out. 21-pitch frame. 110 total.
• Jorge De La Rosa's Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 6 Ks, 110 P, 60 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: In his last 27 games, Ian Desmond has put up a .313/.376/.606 line, and entering tonight's game in Coors Field, he had a .436/.458/.706 line in the Rockies' home.
• In the six games on the Nationals' current road trip in which he's played, Danny Espinosa has a .385 AVG with two doubles, two home runs and four runs scored.
• Bryce Harper's four walks last night were a career high and he scored all four times he reached base.
The view from the top corner of purple seats. Not too shabby. pic.twitter.com/H9k6pSQyFC— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) August 20, 2015
• Harper has no reached base in 40 of his last 43 games.
• The Nationals and Rockies have split the first four games of their season series, with two left to play this week.
• After his home run in last night's game, Carlos Gonzalez now has 15 homers since the All-Star Break, and he's tied for first in second-half home runs.
• Since July 5th (in tonight's "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment), Gonzalez is now 45 for 133 (.338 AVG).
• Gonzalez left last night's game with a knee issue, but (unfortunately for the Nationals, and good for baseball fans) he was back in the lineup tonight.
2. Turning Point(s): Ryan Zimmerman let a grounder by Ben Paulsen get between his glove and his legs as he went toward the line, and the E:3 put a runner on second with one down in the Rockies' second. A groundout to the right side of the infield moved Paulsen to third with two down, and a wild pitch on a curve in the dirt from Nats' right-hander Stephen Strasburg to Nick Hundley that bounced off of and got away from Wilson Ramos allowed the runner to come in to give Colorado a 1-0 lead early in the second of three with the Nationals in Coors Field.
• The Nationals, with Yunel Escobar taking the fifth walk of the night and Ian Desmond doubling, put runners on second and third with one out in the top of the sixth, but Ryan Zimmerman K'd chasing a fastball out of the zone, and after an intention walk to Michael Taylor loaded them up, Wilson Ramos lined out to short and Stephen Strasburg (who stayed in to hit with two down and the bases loaded in the sixth inning of a one-run game) K'd too.
• The Nationals loaded the bases again with two out in the top of the seventh, and a wild pitch from hard-throwing reliever Gonzalez German allowed Bryce Harper to score from third, before a TOOTBLAN ended the threat when Yunel Escobar rounded third base and was tagged out to end the inning.
• It wouldn't stay tied, however... [ed. note - "Continued right below..."]
1. The Wrap-Up: Gonzalez German took over for the Rockies in the top of the seventh and retired the first two batters he faced before Bryce Harper hit a liner to right that Charlie Blackmon missed while charging in. With Harper on second, Yunel Escobar came up with a runner in scoring position and took a two-out walk.
Ian Desmond got up 3-0, swung through a 93 mph fastball, 3-1, and took a low fastball to load'em up again... and a wild pitch to Ryan Zimmerman allowed Harper to score, but Escobar overran the bag and got tagged out to end the threat. 1-1 ballgame.
Rafael Betancourt took over for the Rockies in the eighth and gave up a two-out single by Wilson Ramos and a two-out walk by Clint Robinson (who pinch hit for Strasburg). Jayson Werth stepped in next and hit a line drive triple to right field. Two runs score. 3-1 Nats.
Casey Janssen retired the Rockies in order in a seven-pitch eighth.
John Axford gave up a one-out single by Yunel Escobar, who stole second, took third on a fly to right (with two down) and scored on an RBI single to right by Ryan Zimmerman, 4-1 Nationals after eight and a half.
Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth (in an actual save opportunity) and locked it down. 20 for 20 on the year, 3 for 3 with D.C.
Nationals now 60-59