VIERA, Fla. - Stephen Strasburg is humming along in his fifth start of the spring. He's fanned six in three innings and has thrown 52 pitches (40 strikes) through three frames. He's expected to throw about 75 pitches tonight against the Astros.
Houston got two quick singles off the Nationals' opening day starter in the first inning - a leadoff line drive by Trevor Crowe and a windblown pop to left that Bryce Harper lost in the sun that was ruled a single.
Since then, the Astros are struggling mightily.
Strasburg got Fernando Martinez swinging for the second out of the first, then caught former teammate Rick Ankiel admiring a big curve for a called third strike. After yielding a two-out single to Jake Elmore, he got Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell looking for the third out of a 1-2-3 second and struck out the side in the third, all swinging.
Those six strikeouts match Strasburg's high for the spring, which came in his last start in 4 2/3 innings against the Mets on March 13.
Batting for the first time this spring in the bottom of the third, Strasburg grounded out to Harrell.
We head to the fourth, locked in a scoreless tie.
Update: The tie is no more, as Ankiel exacted some revenge against Strasburg in the fourth, launching a moonshot homer over the fence in right for a 1-0 Astros lead. Ankiel didn't bite at a 1-2 curve on the outer portion of the plate, then went deep on Strasburg's next pitch.
Before that, Strasburg fanned Robbie Grossman, the fifth straight Astros hitter to strike out. After the homer, Strasburg got a pair of outs on grounders to shortstop Ian Desmond.