Strasburg finds a groove in fourth spring start (Nats fall to Mets 2-0)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Stephen Strasburg had an eventful first few innings here at Digital Domain Park, dodging the shard of a broken bat, smoking a line drive to the opposite field and beating out an infield single.

He does it all, folks.

On the mound, Strasburg completed five innings tonight, allowing just one run on two hits and striking out three in his finest outing of spring.

He threw 85 pitches, 53 for strikes.

Unlike in his past starts, where he came out overthrowing, Strasburg seemed to ease into his outing, sitting at 93-94 mph in the first inning, according to the stadium radar gun. He then ramped things up a bit from there, touching 97 mph a few times in his final four innings of work.

The Nationals right-hander allowed a solo home run to Mets right fielder Lucas Duda in the fourth inning, with the longball coming just one pitch after Strasburg thought he'd struck out Duda looking at a curve ball. Duda thought he was gone, as well, as he took a step toward the Mets dugout before sheepishly settling back into the batter's box once he didn't hear the call for strike three.

Other than the Duda homer, the only real scare Strasburg faced was when had to dodge the barrel of Mets catcher Josh Thole's bat, which came flying at him in the second inning. Strasburg calmly ducked out of the way of the splintered piece of lumber, corralled Thole's slow grounder and threw out the catcher at first.

In the top half of the next inning, getting his first at-bat of the spring (the first AB for any Nats pitcher, actually), Strasburg smoked a line drive to the right side. The ball bounced off second baseman Daniel Murphy, and the hustling Strasburg beat out the throw for an infield single.

Five one-run innings, three strikeouts and a line drive single which gave him a 1.000 batting average for spring.

All in all, not a bad day's work for the 23-year-old.

Update: The Nationals lost 2-0 to the Mets. Washington managed only five hits.

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