HARRISBURG, Pa. - First baseman Tim Pahuta’s three-run home to right field in the third inning has increased the Senators’ lead to 4-0 and Stephen Strasburg continues to keep the Portland Sea Dogs off the scoreboard. Through four innings, he’s yet to yield a hit, has struck out three and is still bringing the heat.
The fourth was another quick inning for Strasburg, who is all business on the mound tonight, neither overthrowing nor taking Double-A hitters for granted. He threw eight pitches, five for strikes; his total at this point is 43 pitches, 32 for strikes.
The second time through the order is where hitters usually adjust, even to flamethrowers, but Strasburg doesn’t seem like he’ll have any of that tonight. He needed four pitches to fan Ryan Khoury, the leadoff hitter, getting ahead 0-1 on a 95 mph fastball, watching Khoury lay off a ball, then pulling the string on an 80 mph curve before getting him swinging on a 90 mph slider.
Alex Hassan swung at a 2-0 pitch and hit a broken-bat grounder to third. Oscar Tejeda challenged Strasburg, swinging at his first pitch, but flied out deep to right to end the inning.
Fifth inning update: Well, the Sea Dogs finally got a base runner, but he didn’t last long. With two down in the fifth, Strasburg hit Jeremy Hazelbaker with a 97 mph inside fastball that grazed the front of his jersey as he tried to bend out of the way. With Hazelbaker on first, Strasburg threw to the base to keep him close and when Hazelbaker took off, the right-hander threw a strike that catcher Ivan Rodriguez used to quickly gun down Hazelbaker at second. So Strasburg has still faced the minimum through five. Pitch count: 12 for the inning (eight for strikes) and 54 for the game (40 for strikes). No one’s warming in the Harrisburg bullpen, so expect Strasburg back out for the sixth.
Sixth inning update: Strasburg isn’t the only Stephen sparkling for the Senators tonight. Third baseman Stephen King’s grand slam in the bottom of the fifth capped a five-run inning that has given the right-hander a 9-0 cushion. Strasburg’s velocity has dipped a bit - he’s now topping out around 94-95 mph - and the Sea Dogs finally got a hit, Dan Butler’s broken-bat liner to left off an 0-2 pitch to lead off the sixth. Strasburg then made a nice play when Mitch Dening hit a comebacker, trapping Butler between second and third before he was caught in a 1-5-6 rundown for the inning’s first out. Ryan Dent fanned swinging on a 77 mph curve after getting ahead 2-0. Khoury lined out to short on a 1-2 pitch for the final out of the sixth. Strasburg has thrown 70 pitches, 53 for strikes. There was briefly action in the bullpen at the start of the sixth, but with Strasburg still well under his 80-pitch limit, maybe he’ll come out for the seventh.
Final update: Pat McCoy is in on from the Harrisburg bullpen, ending Strasburg’s sixth rehab start after a dominating six innings. Strasburg shut the Sea Dogs out on one hit, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter. Check back postgame for comments from Strasburg on his outing and his upcoming Tuesday start with the Nationals.