5. Strasburg's Back: Stephen Strasburg left his last outing after just four innings with what he described afterwards as a "knot" in his upper back. "Just a little bit of back tightness," he explained. "It's just something that I kind of dealt with in the middle of year. It's got just some sort of little ball that's kind of in the back there that can't really figure out what it is. Sometimes it gets upset, and tried to battle through it and offense came through today and picked me up."
Strasburg gave up four runs on seven hits, two of them home runs, before he was lifted from what ended up a 7-4 win over the Miami Marlins.
Washington's 27-year-old right-hander skipper a turn in the rotation last weekend, but threw side sessions over the last few days while the Nationals tried to decide if he would be okay to return to the mound tonight.
"He's been off a little while," Matt Williams said in an MLB Network Radio interview this morning.
"His last start had a little bit of an issue with his upper back. So, the bullpens have been good for him and he's anxious to get out there."
In five starts in August, Strasburg was (3-1) with the Nationals 4-1 in his outings, over which the '09 no.1 overall pick put up a 2.70 ERA, a 2.84 FIP, three walks (0.90 BB/9), 35 Ks (10.50 K/9) and a .194/.216/.380 line against in 30 IP.
Strasburg returned to the rotation tonight to take on the New York Mets for the third time this season, and the first time since he faced them twice in April, giving up nine hits and six runs in 5 ⅓ IP in a loss in Nationals Park in his first start this season, then holding them to two runs on six hits in 5 ⅓ in an 8-2 win three weeks later in Citi Field.
His third start of the season against the Nats' NL East rivals began with a scoreless, 10-pitch first in which he worked around a one-out infield single by Yoenis Cespedes.
With the score 1-0 after one, Strasburg retired Lucas Duda on a line drive to left for the first out of the second, but a first-pitch fastball to Mets' catcher Travis d'Arnaud ended up in the left field bullpen. 1-1 game. d'Arnaud's 11th. 11-pitch frame, 21 total after two.
Strasburg struck out the side in a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 third that left him at 33 pitches. He added two Ks in a 17-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth that pushed him p to 50 pitches. Eight straight outs.
Strasburg was up to 11-straight outs and seven Ks after he added two more strikeouts in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth. 63 total.
Strasburg issued a one-out walk to Curtis Granderson in the Mets' sixth, ending his streak of retired batters at twelve, but he dropped a 1-2 curve on Yoenis Cespedes for K no.9 and out no.2 and Daniel Murphy sent a fly to left-center to end a 14-pitch frame that left Strasburg at 77 pitches.
David Wright took an 0-2 fastball for a called strike three and Strasburg's 10th K. An 0-2 fastball up high got Lucas Duda swinging for K no.11. Travis d'Arnaud fell behind 0-2 quickly, fouled off a curve, and singled to right with two down. Strasburg got up 0-2 on Michael Conforto in the next at bat, and put him away with a 1-2 bender. 12 Ks. 14-pitch frame. 91 total.
Strasburg came back out for the eighth, fell behind pinch hitter Kelly Johnson and gave up a solo home run to right that tied it up at 2-2. Kirk Nieuwenhuis took a 2-2 fastball for a called strike three. K no.13. Curtis Granderson singled to center on a 1-2 curve, ending Strasburg's night...
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 13 Ks, 2 HRs, 103 P, 70 S, 0/3 GO/FO.
The line on Stephen Strasburg tonight: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 13 K -- 103 pitches, 70 strikes. pic.twitter.com/CdiD7LVbTm— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 10, 2015
4. deGrom vs dC: In four 2015 starts against the Nationals, 27-year-old Mets' starter Jacob deGrom has gone (1-2), with a 3.47 ERA, five walks (1.93 BB/9), 25 Ks (9.64 K/9) and a .225/.251/.304 line against in 23 ⅓ innings pitched.
After the 2010 9th Round pick held the Nationals to two runs on six hits in his latest outing against New York's NL East rivals in an August 1st start in Citi Field, Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond talked about what deGrom was doing against him and his teammates.
"[He] was using his changeup a lot tonight, paired with a sinker, backdoor," Desmond said.
"Had good stuff. He competed. We got him -- had his pitch count up early, got him to 100 pitches in like five innings, I think. Went out for the sixth, maybe, with 100 pitches, these guys are going to be stingy, man."
"These guys are good pitchers. Don't factor in age. These guys know what they're doing out there. Travis [d'Arnaud] is putting down good fingers back there, you don't see them shaking a lot. They're working quick, they're in the zone and pitching well."
On the year, before tonight, deGrom was (12-7) in 26 starts with a 2.40 ERA, a 2.87 FIP, 34 walks (1.81 BB/9), 175 Ks (9.32 K/9) and a .205/.252/.313 line against in 169 IP.
He took the mound in the series finale in D.C. tonight and retired the first two batters he faced, but a 97 mph 1-2 fastball inside to Bryce Harper ended up in the right field bullpen. 1-0 Nats. No.35 for Harper. 21-pitch first.
A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 second left deGrom at 35 pitches. An eight-pitch, 1-2-3 third left deGrom at 43 pitches, with seven straight outs.
Bryce Harper was 2 for 2 tonight after a leadoff double to the right-center gap in the bottom of the fourth.
He took third on a groundout to second by Anthony Rendon and scored on an RBI single through short by Clint Robinson. 2-1. deGrom held it there. 16-pitch frame, 59 total.
Jayson Werth drew a two-out, nine-pitch walk from deGrom in the bottom of the fifth, but Danny Espinosa K'd swinging to end a 22-pitch frame that left deGrom at 81 pitches.
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth pushed deGrom up to 94 pitches. Still 2-1 Nationals.
Matt den Dekker doubled by first with two down in the Nationals' half of the seventh, but was stranded when Stephen Strasburg grounded out.
• Jacob deGrom's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks, 1 HR, 102 P, 70 S, 7/2 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: In today's Nats-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Jayson Werth started tonight's series finale with the Mets in the midst of a 10-game hit streak, over which he's 16 for 45 (.356 AVG), with five doubles, three home runs and three walks over that stretch.
• In 19 games as the Nationals' leadoff hitter this season, Werth is 27 for 81 (.333/.393/.617) with nine doubles, one triple, four home runs and eight walks over that stretch.
• Before tonight's game, Bryce Harper ranked first in the NL in AVG (.333), OBP (.465), SLG (640), runs scored (101) and Wins Above Replacement (8.3 fWAR).
• In a bonus "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Ian Demsond has a .306/.376/.541 line, eight doubles, a triple, 10 HRs, 19 walks and seven stolen bases in his last 47 games going back to July 20th.
• Anthony Rendon has hit safely in 15 of his last 17 games, going 22 for 69 (.319 AVG), with three doubles, three HRs, 10 walks and 18 runs scored over that stretch.
• With last night's come-from-behind win, the Mets improved to 6-4 in their last 10, 27-13 in their last 40 and 30-19 so far in the second half.
• In today's Mets-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: The Mets are 21-12 on the road since July 1st after going 11-26 on the road in the first three months of the season.
• The Mets rallied from a six-run deficit last night. It was, according to the Mets' pregame notes, the first time they've come back from six runs down in the seventh inning or later since June 13, 2001.
• In a bonus Mets-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, since July 25th, the Mets lead the majors in runs scored, with 250, home runs, with 72, runs batted in, 241 and slugging percentage (.494), going 28-13 since then.
• The Mets have hit home runs in eight straight games, with 17 total over that stretch.
• In his first 35 games with the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline, has driven in 34 runs. His 18 HRs since the All-Star break are the third-most in the majors.
• Last night's win gave the Mets five straight wins over the Nationals, their longest winning streak against their NL East rivals since late 2008. They haven't won more than five-in-a-row against the franchise since they were the Expos (1991).
2. Turning Points: Bryce Harper started the night 5 for 13 (.385/.429/.462) with a double vs Mets' right-hander Jacob deGrom in their respective careers and improved to 6 for 14 with a double and a home run after he crushed a 97 mph 1-2 fastball up high, inside and sent it soaring out to right for his 35th home run of the season and a 1-0 lead early in the series finale with the Mets.
Bryce Harper hit this 97.3 MPH fastball from Jacob deGrom for HR. It's fastest pitch Harper has ever homered against pic.twitter.com/2RaJeheQa1— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 9, 2015
• The Nationals gave the lead up pretty quickly, however, with Mets' catcher Travis d'Arnaud taking a 96 mph first-pitch fastball out to left with one down in the second for his 11th HR of the season. Tied up at 1-1.
• Harper improved to 2 for 2 tonight and 7 for 15 career vs deGrom with a leadoff double in the fourth, and he scored one out later on an opposite field single to left by Clint Robinson. 2-1.
• Strasburg allowed just one run through seven, but the right-hander fell behind pinch hitter Kelly Johnson, 2-0 and gave up a solo home run to right that tied things up at 2-2 in the eighth. [ed. note - "Continue below..."]
1. The Wrap-Up: Drew Storen came on in relief with a Curtis Granderson on first with one out in a 2-2 game in the eighth to face Yoenis Cespedes and gave up a two-run home run to left on a hanging 1-0 slider. 4-2 Mets.
Tyler Clippard retired the first two batters he faced in the Nationals' eighth, but Bryce Harper took him deep to right for an upper deck blast that made it a 4-3 game. Second home run of the game, 36th of the season. Anthony Rendon bunted his way on with two out, but Michael Conforto made a sliding catch in left to rob Clint Robinson of a single. 4-3 Mets after eight.
Jonathan Papelbon gave up a leadoff double by Lucas Duda in the ninth and one out later, with Duda on third, a Michael Conforto grounder to second bounced off Danny Espinosa for an RBI single. 5-3 NY.
Jeurys Familia came on to end it and retired the Nationals in order.
Nationals now 71-68