Stras vs the Stros: Stephen Strasburg, in what was just his second Grapefruit League start of the Spring, made quick work of the Astros in the first two frames, retiring six hitters in a row in quick, 10- and nine-pitch frames (with 16 of 19 pitches strikes).
Manager Davey Martinez told reporters he wanted to see Strasburg go 4-5 innings, with the pitch count an obvious guide, and the 31-year-old, 2019 World Series MVP, whose workload the team is trying to manage this Spring after a long season last year, finished his third, 1-2-3 frame at 29 pitches after striking out two of three batters in another 10-pitch inning.
The Nationals’ starter was up to 12-straight set down in four perfect frames after retiring the side in order in a seven-pitch fourth (36 total) in which he picked up his fourth strikeout in a quick inning of work.
Strasburg’s streak of retired batters ended with a leadoff single by Kyle Tucker in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Nick Tanielu followed with the second hit, another single, which sent Tucker over to third before he scored on a 1-6-3 DP in the next AB, 1-0 Astros.
Strasburg got out of the inning, without further damage, and was done for the day after five innings of work in which he gave up the two hits and one run, while striking out four in a 46-pitch outing.
Stop us if you've heard this before...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 11, 2020
...but World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg just cruised through 5 IP vs. the Houston Astros.
5 IP // 2 H // 1 ER // 0 BB // 4 K#Strasmas // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/JqcAtvfqMY
Eaton DH: Adam Eaton, who tweaked his hamstring in a March 3rd game, hadn’t played in a Grapefruit League matchup before returning to the lineup today as the Nationals’ DH.
Martinez said it wasn’t a big concern yesterday, though the cautioned that if the 31-year-old did not get back in a game soon it might start to concern him.
“I’ll start getting concerned if he’s not playing within the next five or six days,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato on Tuesday.
“We could ramp him up here fairly quickly. For me, I told him — just like these other guys — ‘Until you show me you can do everything, you’re going to just stay back there.’”
Eaton had hit recently, and was running at 75-80% according to his manager’s estimation, but he finally got back into a game today, striking and popping out in his first two trips to the plate in eight days.
A pop to second in his third trip to the plate left Eaton 0 for 3 in his return to the lineup.
Bullpen Action: Wander Suero retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth, but an E:6 committed by Emilio Bonifacio, and a walk put two runners on and the Nationals replaced the righty with Tanner Rainey, who uncorked a wild pitch, but got a swinging K for the third out of the frame. Still 1-0 Astros.
Rainey returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and hit the first batter he faced (unintentionally, as even the Astros’ announce team acknowledged), then got a 4-6-3 DP to erase that runner and a pop to first to end a scoreless frame.
Roenis Elías gave up back-to-back, one-out singles in the Astros’ half of the eighth, but got an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP to escape the jam.
Carter Kieboom doubled to left-center off Forrest Whitley with one out in the top of the ninth, with the score still 1-0 in the Astros’ favor, and scored on an RBI double by Yadiel Hernandez in the next at bat, 1-1.
Bonifacio singled off Willy Collado to send Hernandez over to third base, and Luis Garcia drove him in, 2-1, before Bonifacio scored from third on a wild pitch, 3-1, and Wilmer Difo singled to drive in Garcia, 4-1, then scored himself on a wild pitch pitch by a new pitcher, Carlos Sanabria, 5-1, and 6-1 when Kieboom walked to force in another run in an inning which saw 12 batters step to the plate for the “visiting team” in West Palm Beach.
Hunter Strickland gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, leaving a fastball over the middle for Bryan De La Cruz. It was the 3rd HR allowed in 5+ innings pitched this Spring for the Nats’ right-hander, who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners last July.
Strickland, who was injured early last year, gave up five HRs in 21 IP in the regular season with the Nationals, and three more in two innings of work in the NLDS.
That was all he allowed today though, 6-2 Nationals final.