An abbreviated day for Strasburg (Harper homers again)

This didn’t look like the Stephen Strasburg we’ve seen much of this season.

Strasburg, who entered today with a 1.64 ERA on the year, was clearly battling himself this afternoon against the Padres, stepping off the mound and taking deep breath after deep breath.

He didn’t have his good stuff, allowing seven hits and four runs before seeing the bullpen door open to begin the fifth inning.

It’s just the third time in his 25 career starts that Strasburg had failed to pitch into the fifth, and is only the second time he’s allowed more than three runs in an outing.

Strasburg wasn’t helped by a bloop double that fell in between three Nationals defenders to begin the game, but that was far from his only problem. He struggled with his control, walking two Padres hitters and elevating his pitch count in a hurry.

The righty needed 39 pitches to get through the first inning, and tossed 81 pitches (55 strikes) over his four innings. He leaves with his ERA now at 2.25.

I was surprised to see Strasburg pulled so early, but it’s very possibly Davey Johnson wanted to save Strasburg’s innings for later on down the road, considering he’ll be limited to around 160 frames this season in his first full year since Tommy John surgery.

The Nats trail 5-0 here in the fifth, with Tom Gorzelanny taking over for Strasburg and allowing a two-out RBI single to John Baker.

Update: Bryce Harper’s in a groove now.

The rookie needed 53 at-bats to get his first major league home run. He now has two in his last five trips to the plate.

Harper smacked a solo homer to center off Padres starter Anthony Bass leading off the fifth inning, giving him his second longball in as many days and getting the Nats on the board. They now trail 5-1.

There was no curtain call for Harper today, just another swift jog around the bases.

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