PITTSBURGH - Through three innings, Stephen Strasburg has looked strong and healthy.
He’s been attacking hitters, throwing his fastball 94-96 mph and not showing any signs of the irritation in his forearm that led him to shake his throwing arm consistently during his last outing.
Strasburg and the Nationals also trail 2-1 after three innings.
After setting down six straight hitters, with two swinging strikeouts in that span, Strasburg allowed a Clint Barmes bloop single leading off the third. Two batters later, Starling Marte crushed a first-pitch Strasburg fastball out to right-center for a two-run homer.
It was a get-me-over 95 mph heater from Strasburg, which sat middle-middle. That’s the downside of being aggressive in the zone early in the count and attacking hitters - while it will allow you to be ahead in a lot of counts, it also will give opposing hitters a chance to square up balls over the heart of the plate.
The Nats want Strasburg to go after hitters and trust his stuff. The trade-off is that if a hitter barrels up a 95 mph heater that sits down the middle, it can go a long way.
Strasburg has thrown 42 pitches, 29 of which have been strikes. He’s been better about pumping first-pitch strikes today, and has been working quickly.
The Nats’ lone run thus far came on an Ian Desmond sac fly. Desmond crushed a ball to deep center, but Andrew McCutchen brought it in just before hitting the wall.
Roger Bernadina came in to score on the sac fly, giving Desmond his 11th RBI of the season.
Update: The Nats have evened the score in the fourth on another sac fly, this one from Adam LaRoche.
Ryan Zimmerman led off the fourth with a triple to left (you don’t see too many triples to the left side of the field), his second triple of the season. LaRoche then crushed a ball to right, which was brought in just short of the track by Travis Snider.
LaRoche has been swinging the bat much better the last handful of days, and his approach has seemed to improve, as well. He’s walked in each of his last three games, this after going that entire 0-for-26 stretch without a base-on-balls.
Zimmerman has also responded to his 0-for-4, four-strikeout game last night with a nice start today. He crunched a ball to deep center in the second, although MCcCutchen tracked it down, and then smoked a ball down the left field line that resulted in that triple.
It’s 2-2 midway through the fourth.
Update II: Another two-run shot off Strasburg, this one by Clint Barmes, who came into today hitting .173 on the season, has given the Pirates a 4-2 lead after five.
Barmes took a 1-0 Strasburg fastball into the bullpen in left-center, putting the Pirates back on top and causing a frustrated eye-roll from Strasburg as he turned to watch the ball fly over the fence.
Strasburg’s control has been better today than his last time out, and he’s been more economical with his pitches, needing just 68 to get through five innings. But he’s still surrendered four runs thus far and trails yet again.
Update III: This back-and-forth affair is tied yet again after Wilson Ramos delivered a big two-run single in the sixth to knot it up 4-4.
Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman came around to score on Ramos’ bouncer up the middle, his first hit since coming off the DL. Ramos had been 0-for-9 post-DL stint prior to that single.
Strasburg will take the mound in the bottom of the sixth with things all square yet again.
Update IV: Tyler Moore has had two at-bats with the bases loaded in the last two innings, and both have ended the same way - with a swinging strikeout.
Moore has stranded six in his last two at-bats, which have come in the sixth and seventh innings. The second of those two strikeouts ended the seventh inning and made the Nats 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position today.
The Nats are working their way through Pittsburgh’s bullpen, while Strasburg is still in to work the bottom of the seventh.