VIERA, Fla. -- Wrapped in the 50,000-watt, 100-decibel, simulcast, flashbulb-fueled, candy-coated pomp that was Stephen Strasburg's Nationals debut, there was a baseball game played at Space Coast Stadium. And apart from Strasburg's two shutout innings, there again was little for Nationals fans to find encouraging.
The Nationals lost 9-4 to the Tigers, their bullpen again hammered after Strasburg gave up two hits and struck out two in his two innings. Tyler Walker was responsible for most of the damage, allowing six runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 innings, and the Nationals had just seven hits on Tigers pitching.
"Any pitch he didn't throw that wasn't quality, they were all over it," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He threw a couple good breaking balls. He located the fastball good a couple times. But as soon as he didn't, they were on it."
On with today's awards:
Stephen Strasburg: You knew this was coming, right? After the way Strasburg pitched, though, he's deserving of praise. He might have been nervous, but he handled the hype well, kept his pitch count low in the first inning and got out of a jam with a gutsy 3-2 slider in the second inning. He threw first-pitch strikes to just two of six batters, who both put Strasburg's first pitch in play, and his only swing-and-miss was on the high fastball he used to strike out Miguel Cabrera. But that's nit-picking. He's the real deal, and he'll only get better. This is the first Golden Goose of what will likely be a long string of them.
Aaron Thompson: The left-hander pitched well for the second time this spring, throwing two hitless innings with one walk. He's got a strong changeup, a solid breaking ball and a decent fastball, and could be a good fourth or fifth starter for the Nationals.
Ian Desmond: Once again, the 24-year-old made an impression. He started in right field, caught the only ball hit to him, went 1-for-3 with a walk and drove in two with a double to the wall. Even if Cristian Guzman is healthy and starting at shortstop, Desmond is trying to force his way on to this team.
Tyler Walker: His WHIP is currently 5.25, his ERA is 37.12 and he threw 37 pitches in 1 2/3 innings today, allowing eight hits and six runs. If Walker doesn't pick it up, he won't be on this team, major-league deal or not.
Miguel Batista: After Strasburg came out of the game, Batista gave up two runs in two innings, allowing three hits, walking one and throwing 40 pitches in two innings. It's difficult to see Batista making the squad as a starter, though he could stick as a reliever, especially if Walker gets cut.
Josh Whitesell: He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and left three on base, while Mike Morse -- one of his chief competitors for a bench spot -- was 1-for-2 with a run.
What to watch:
The themes from today's game mostly have to do with Strasburg. We'll likely see him go three innings next time out in a game that could include Albert Pujols. He'll have to throw more first-pitch strikes, especially when hitters time his fastball. Once they do and he falls behind in counts, they'll hit it when he's forced to come over the plate with it. He also missed a few too many times with the slider, and could stand to slow down his delivery a touch. But his changeup was solid against lefties, and he displayed a veteran's know-how of his craft when discussing the pitch. "For me, it's not about speed. You've got to trust the grip. It's a variation of your fastball. You shouldn't be slowing your arm down to try and take off speed. The thing that's going to sell it is your arm speed. That's what I'm trying to do -- just locate it down in the zone. You throw it on the seams, it's going to have some downward tilt to it. As long as you maintain your arm speed, it could be 5-6 mph slower and still be super-effective." He's going to get better, and it will be interesting to see if the Nationals stand their ground on sending him to the minors. When Jim Riggleman talked post-game, you could see the door was a hair more open than it's been in the past. "As far as he knows, he's competing for a spot," Riggleman said.
The Nationals travel to Jupiter on Wednesday for a 1:05 contest against the Cardinals. Garrett Mock will start for Washington, to be followed by J.D. Martin in both pitchers' second trip through the rotation.