Before Miami Marlins’ outfielder Lewis Brinson hit a leadoff home run in the first at bat of this afternoon’s Grapefruit League game, Stephen Strasburg had not given one up since last August 19th. That’s a stretch of 67 innings on the mound (47 2⁄3 innings in the regular season, 14 in the NLDS, and 5 1⁄3 this Spring) in which the Washington Nationals’ starter hadn’t had one leave the yard off him.
Strasburg, of course, finished the 2018 regular season with the lowest HR/9 (0.67) among qualified NL starters, with a National League low 13 home runs surrendered in 175 1⁄3 IP on the season last year, just two in 62 2⁄3 in the second half.
So what did he do to limit the long ball damage last summer?
“I don’t really know,” Strasburg admitted in an in-game interview with MASN’s Dan Kolko last week. “I think you’ve got to focus on what you can control. It doesn’t really work to your favor when you’re trying to get ground balls, or trying to keep them in the yard. The focus for me is executing, and if I can execute the pitch and be aggressive in the strike zone, I’ll take whatever happens.”
A stiff, 16 mph West Palm Beach wind blowing out to center field, which Miami’s broadcast team noted even before Strasburg threw his first pitch today, likely helped Brinson, whose blast was his second home run of the Spring.
It was called like it was a wind-aided homer by the radio announcers at least.
It was the first of three runs that Strasburg gave up in 4 1⁄3 innings of work this afternoon in what ended up an 81-pitch outing in which he gave up eight hits and three walks.
The other two runs came on a bases-loaded, RBI groundout by the opposing pitcher and an RBI single by Justin Bour that put the Fish ahead early in the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Strasburg left the game with the Nationals down, 3-0 in the fifth, but they rallied to take the lead with Wilmer Difo driving in two runs with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, and Bryce Harper hitting his second home run of the Spring in the home-half of the sixth, a two-run blast that put the Nats on top, 4-3.
Washington added three runs in the seventh on an RBI double by Moises Sierra, RBI single by Reid Brignac, and a sac fly by Chris Dominguez, 7-3, and another in the eighth when a run scored on a throwing error by the Fish. That’s how it ended.
Matt Grace (1 2⁄3 scoreless), Ryan Madson, Trevor Gott and Sammy Solis followed Stras on the mound, holding the Marlins off the board after the fifth.
Final Score: 8-3 Nationals