Strasburg strikes out six in three strong innings

VIERA, Fla. - It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty impressive.

Stephen Strasburg got into a bit of trouble in his three innings of work tonight, surrendering three hits and two walks and allowing a first-inning run after a Mike Baxter sacrifice fly brought in Jordany Valdespin.

Apparently Valdespin reaches base every single time he comes to the plate against the Nationals.

Strasburg still looked good, though, showing off a biting curveball and tough changeup. He struck out six on the night, five of which were swinging.

His first two strikeouts (of Andrew Brown and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, which ended the first inning) both came on offspeed pitches down in the zone that drew awkward swings.

It took Strasburg 52 pitches (30 of which were strikes) to get through his three innings, right where manager Davey Johnson wanted his right-hander to be. Strasburg was on a 60-pitch limit tonight, but Johnson said that as long as Strasburg worked three innings and got above 50 pitches, he’d be happy.

I guess Johnson is happy.

Anthony Rendon got the Nationals on the board in the bottom of the second on a RBI double ripped into the gap in right-center. Rendon’s third extra-base hit of spring brought in Danny Espinosa from third and made it a 1-1 game.

Rendon continues to rake, and is now 5-for-11 with a homer and two doubles this spring. He also continues to show off his opposite-field power, which he says has really come on in the last couple years.

The Nats then took the lead in the third when Denard Span walked, stole second and then stole third. He came around on a Jayson Werth RBI groundout, making it a 2-1 Nats lead.

Werth did a nice job in the leadoff spot for the Nationals last season, but the Nationals made a trade with the Twins to acquire Span largely because of the center fielder’s on-base abilities and his speed. Both were on display in the third.

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