Ugly start for Strasburg, Nats (but they battle back)

Safe to say this isn’t how Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals wanted to open up their series finale against the Orioles as they try to avoid a sweep.

The Nats trail 3-0 in the second inning after a rocky top of the first for Strasburg and an all-around sloppy performance by Washington in the second.

Strasburg gave up three hard-hit balls in the first and frankly was lucky to escape having just allowed a single run. He gave up an RBI single to Nick Markakis to get the O’s on the board, but bounced back to get the red-hot Adam Jones to ground into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

The second got off to a terrible start when Bryce Harper traveled way (and I mean way) too far to his right and called off left fielder Tyler Moore on a fly ball that was hit to straight-away left. Harper got there in time but dropped the ball, allowing Wilson Betemit to reach on a two-base error.

The play should have been Moore’s, but Harper got too aggressive and was credited with third error of the season.

Chris Davis then reached on an infield single in which neither Strasburg nor Adam LaRoche attacked the ball, giving the lumbering Davis time to get down the line. Robert Andino plated Davis on an RBI groundout, and then Strasburg lost the zone, walking backup catcher Luis Exposito, who is hitting .077 on the season.

A passed ball by Jesus Flores allowed the runners to move up, and Xavier Avery made it 3-0 with a single to left.

Strasburg has needed 51 pitches to get through just two innings of work, and for the second straight start, he appears to be battling himself and just doesn’t look comfortable.

I doubt “hot stuff” has contributed to this effort, however.

Update: The Nats finally gave Strasburg help of some kind in the third, when they pushed three runs across to tie the game at 3-3.

Bryce Harper’s two-run triple was the big blow and could be a major turning point in this game. Harper made an adjustment on a 69 mph curve from Wei-Yin Chen and sent it out to right. Markakis nearly hauled it in with a diving effort, but the ball just scooted out of his glove as Markakis hit the ground, allowing two runs to score and getting Harper to third.

Solid hustle from Ian Desmond three batters later prevented a 4-6-3 double play and allowed Harper to score, knotting the game as we go to the fourth.

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