PHILADELPHIA | Welcome to MASN's discussion space for tonight's Nationals-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park, where Stephen Strasburg is facing the two-time National League champions for the first time. Strasburg's bullpen session in front of the typically harsh fans was tame; there were fans packed three-deep against the railing above the Nationals' bullpen, but most of them were just snapping pictures or taking video, not heckling Strasburg.
Anyway, I'll have updates and analysis throughout the game. If you'd like to comment, leave your thoughts here, and I'll respond to them.
7:18: Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick has walked two batters in the first inning and given up a single to Ian Desmond, loading the bases for Adam Kennedy. He's 3-0 now to Kennedy, and has already thrown 23 pitches.
7:22: A walk to Kennedy made it 1-0, and Ivan Rodriguez just drove in two more runs. It's 3-0 Nationals, and Stephen Strasburg may bat before he takes the mound. He's on deck with two outs.
7:24: A nice play from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard kept the Nationals from a couple more runs in the first. Willie Harris hit a grounder deep in the hole at second, but Utley dove to stop it, and Howard, in his first game back from the disabled list, stretched about as far as he possibly could to catch the throw to his right and keep his foot on the bag. The Nationals will take a three-run lead into the bottom of the first, and it's also served to sedate this crowd as Strasburg takes the mound.
7:27: Strasburg is of and running here - he froze Jimmy Rollins with a back-door curveball for the first out. And he just threw a curve with so much break that it caused Placido Polanco to duck out of the way before it snapped back over the middle for a strike. Ivan Rodriguez never moved his glove.
7:31: Strasburg is out of the first inning in 12 pitches, eight of them strikes.
7:38: The Nationals missed a chance to add on in the second inning; Nyjer Morgan tripled with one out, but broke for home as Ian Desmond hit a chopper back to the mound, instead of heading back to third. Brian Schneider tagged Morgan out at home, and the Nationals' lead is still three as Ryan Howard comes up to a thunderous ovation in his first at-bat after missing 16 games with a sprained ankle. Howard hits a blooper to center, and there's another ovation.
7:48: Strasburg got two strikeouts against the Phillies' lefty-heavy lineup with his changeup. Both Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez waved at the pitch, and then Ian Desmond made an impressive barehanded stop of Domonic Brown's grounder, throwing to first to end the inning. He's thrown 29 pitches through two innings, and if the Phillies are going to keep swinging at Strasburg's changeup, he's content to throw it all night.
7:58: The Nationals continue to slap the ball around on Kendrick; the first four batters of the third inning have hits, it's 4-0 and there still aren't any outs. And the Phillies are just now getting relievers loose. Strasburg could have a six- or seven-run lead to work with by the time he comes back out.
8:03: Strasburg beats out a double play (barely) and gets his first career RBI on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded. 5-0 Nationals after the top of the third.
8:09: Strasburg is locked in tonight. He's faced one more than the minimum through three innings, throwing just 35 pitches despite striking out four. He needed just six pitches to get through the third, and has a chance to get into the seventh if he keeps this up.
8:21: Placido Polanco doubles off the wall in left center to start the fourth. That's the first hard-hit ball against Strasburg tonight.
8:25: The Phillies have their first run, after a couple of groundouts to second moved Polanco around the bases. And Shane Victorino is coming up to "Three Little Birds," the Bob Marley song the Nationals play when they lose at home. A tribute to his Hawaiian Island roots, or a subtle taunt?
8:28: If there was a joke there, it's now on Victorino. Strasburg froze him with a 3-2 curveball to end the inning. The guts to throw that pitch in that count, and the precision to throw it for a strike, are what makes Strasburg rare.
8:38: Strasburg starts the fifth the way he ended the fourth - with a called strikeout on his curveball. This one came off his curveball. He seemse fairly content not to throw fastballs to the Phillies.
8:40: And that's going to be it for Strasburg. He threw a 1-1 changeup to Domonic Brown, winced in pain and shook his hand. The Nationals' training staff, manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty ran immediately to the mound. We'll keep you updated as soon as we know something. Craig Stammen is in for the Nationals.
8:49: Craig Stammen gets the Nationals out of the fifth without a problem, but the concern, obviously, is on Strasburg. The way he shook his hand, it made me wonder if he had a blister. But I'll keep the speculation to a minimum. His final line: 4 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 56 pitches, 38 strikes. Too bad for him - he was dominating, and was well on his way to a win, but he came two outs short of being able to get one.
9:26: It's still 5-1 Nationals in the bottom of the seventh; Doug Slaten has done admirable relief work following Stammen. We haven't received an update on Strasburg yet, but I'll get you one as soon as I have it.
9:29: Tremendous, rangy play from Ian Desmond to end the seventh, going deep in the hole to stop Mike Sweeney's grounder and throwing a hard one-hop throw to first. He's made a handful of impressive plays tonight, all without an error.
9:38: If Strasburg can't make his next start on Thursday against the Cardinals - and I'd bet he won't pitch - there's an easy replacement for him: Jordan Zimmermann, who pitched five scoreless at Triple-A Syracuse last night, looks ready to go. He could make the start on an extra day's rest. We still don't have an update on Strasburg, though, and it doesn't sound like the Nationals are going to give us one until after the game.
10:01: It's 8-1 Nationals headed into the ninth inning; Roger Bernadina split this game open even further with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth. Ian Desmond has four hits and two runs tonight. And no one is remotely concerned with that. I'm going to relay a Strasburg update to our desk as soon as I get one from downstairs, so we should have something soon after the game.
10:10: Bernadina makes a leaping catch at the wall to rob Ryan Howard of a double - and possibly more - then Shane Victorino strikes out looking against Miguel Batista.
10:14: That flyout will do it. The Nationals win 8-1. I'll have a Strasburg update here very shortly.