Strasburg consistent, if not overpowering, in win over O's (updated)

BALTIMORE - On a hot, muggy night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Stephen Strasburg didn't hit his usual mid-90s readings on his fastball, but he was consistent for five innings as the Nationals dropped the Orioles 4-2 in an exhibition game.

Strasburg ended up throwing 81 pitches over five frames, 52 for strikes. Strasburg allowed one run on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks. His fastball was clocked around 92-93 mph, but his curveball and changeup were solid. The biggest factor was that he got past 80 pitches and never allowed the Orioles the big inning despite a couple of close calls.

"You are going to give up hits in this game," Strasburg said on a Zoom video call after the game. "Now you have an opportunity to work on all facets of pitching and that's burying your holds and taking over when you have to and kind of like reading the situation.

"I think when they manufactured a run there, they did a good job. I think there was two strikes on one of the guys and I didn't really hit my spot and he put it in play and moved the guy over. Those little things, you kind of shore up as you move through the course of the season, but at the same time, you're trying to go out there and minimize damage."

Nationals manager Davey Martinez said he is not worried about Strasburg's fastball velocity right now and believes Strasburg will be good to go for Saturday's first regular season start.

"I don't really concern myself with Stras' fastball," Martinez said on a Zoom call. "Like I said before, a couple of years ago (he) came back off injury ... throwing 91, 92, 93 mph, but he figured out how to pitch. He did that tonight. All the stuff was good. He got five innings and 80 pitches. That's what I'm concerned about. I really like what I saw. I know he felt good. I talked to him after the game, he said he felt good. I like where he's at."

Strasburg allowed a leadoff single to center field by DJ Stewart in the first. Two batters later, Anthony Santander dropped in an opposite-field double off the wall in left field. But with two outs, Strasburg got slugger Chris Davis to roll over to Howie Kendrick at first base on an 80 mph curveball.

Strasburg-Dealing-Red-at-MIA-Sidebar.jpgStrasburg was able to get into a nice groove against the bottom half of the Orioles lineup. In the bottom of the second, he struck out the side, highlighted by a 93 mph fastball to get catcher Bryan Holaday swinging to end the frame.

In the third, Strasburg struck out Cedric Mullins for his fourth punchout in a row. The Orioles managed two more singles, but again Strasburg wiggled out of the jam by inducing a Renato Núñez grounder to short to end the threat.

The Nationals opened the scoring in the fourth. Starlin Castro's sharp grounder got though into center field off Alex Cobb, who had been brilliant. After Juan Soto grounded into a fielder's choice to second base, Kendrick stepped in. The World Series hero went after an 89 mph fastball on a 2-2 count and crushed it over the left field wall to give the Nats a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Orioles got on the board. Davis doubled into the right field corner and later scored on a Rio Ruiz groundout. The Nats' lead was cut to 2-1.

Strasburg wrapped up his outing with a solid fifth frame, striking out two more and allowing a base hit to José Iglesias, his second of the game.

"Felt pretty good," Strasburg said. "Changeup was better than in the last couple of outings, so that's positive. Fastball command was pretty good. Again, it's just a process and take it one day at a time right now. ...

"You just got to go out there and compete with what you have. Everybody is going through the same thing right now, so it's really it's an even playing field. So you just have to go out there and give it everything you have."

The Nats added more to their lead in the seventh thanks to an RBI double from Kendrick and a run-scoring single by Yan Gomes. Kendrick ended up 2-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs on the night. Soto scored two runs and Emilio Bonifácio added a single.

The Nats return home tomorrow night to face off against the Orioles again.

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