Stephen Strasburg gave up a line drive single to center by Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder DJ Stewart, and a one-out double to left on a changeup outside to left-handed swinging O’s right fielder Anthony Santander in the bottom of the first inning tonight in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the Washington Nationals played their second exhibition game of Spring Training 2.0.
Both runners were stranded two outs later, however, as the 2019 World Series MVP worked out of an early jam in a 17-pitch first inning in his final tune-up before the 2020 MLB season begins later this week.
Strasburg was up to four straight strikeouts after he’d picked up three in a 14-pitch, 1-2-3- second and struck out the first batter he faced in the third, and he was up to 55 pitches on the night, in three scoreless frames, when he stranded two more runners after giving up back-to-back, two-out hits in the O’s half of the third inning.
Stephen Strasburg, Filthy 86mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/34V7i3V9kx— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 20, 2020
Strasburg took the mound in the fourth with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of a two-run home run to left field by Howie Kendrick, who unloaded on a fastball thigh-high inside from O’s starter Alex Cobb.
Chris Davis doubled to right on a 1-1 curve to start the O’s fourth, and moved over to third on one groundout before scoring on another, 2-1, on Strasburg’s 64th pitch of the game.
Strasburg was up to 67 overall after a 12-pitch fourth, and he picked up his 5th and 6th Ks on the night in a 14-pitch fifth, working around a two-out single to finish his night with 81 pitches overall and a one-run lead, 2-1.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 81 P, 52 S, 7/1 GO/FO.
Juan Soto doubled to left-center, one bounce and off the wall, and then scored on an RBI double to right-center by Howie Kendrick, 3-1 Nats, and Kendrick scored on an RBI single, with Yan Gomes driving him in, 4-1, in what ended up a 4-2 win over the Nats’ regional rivals.
Manager Davey Martinez said after the game that he liked what he saw from his starter, and he dismissed concerns about Strasburg’s velocity sitting around 92-93 MPH as opposed to higher in the mid-90s.
Stephen Strasburg, 79mph Frisbee Curveball. pic.twitter.com/ASkFg8XxCz— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 20, 2020
“I don’t really concern myself with Strasburg’s fastball,” Martinez explained after the win.
“Like I’ve said before,” he explained, “a couple years ago he came back off an injury, came back and was throwing 91-92-93, but he figured out how to pitch, and he did that tonight.
“All the stuff was good, he mixed his pitches up well, got him up to five innings and 80 pitches.
“That’s what I’m concerned about. I think come his first start his velo will probably get a little better, but I really liked what I saw. I know he felt good.
“I talked to him after the game, and he said he felt good, so I like where he’s at.”
Strasburg said it was good to have some runners reach base so he could try to work on all aspects of the game in the outing.
“It’s — you’re going to give up hits in this game,” the now-32-year-old, ‘09 No. 1 overall pick told reporters.
“And I think it’s just — now you have an opportunity to work on all facets of pitching, and that’s varying your holds, picking over when you have to, and kind of like reading the situation.”
“I think when they manufactured a run there,” he said of the leadoff double and back-to-back groundouts which led to the only run he allowed in the fourth, they did a good job.
“I think there was two strikes on one of the guys and I didn’t really hit my spot, and he put it in play and moved the guy over.
“Those little things you kind of shore up over the course of a season, but at the same time you’re trying to go out there and minimize damage.”
Next time out Strasburg is going to be pitching in a game that counts, matched up with the New York Yankees in Game 2 of 60 on Saturday. He was asked if he feels like he’s in the kind of shape he’d normally be in after Spring Training and a few Grapefruit League starts.
“It’s tough to say,” he admitted. “You’ve just got to be in the moment, especially at a time like this, and just take it one day at a time.
“There’s just so much going on outside of the game and outside the lines. You really just have to be a professional, and go out there and compete with what you have on that day, and that’s really all you can do.”