Strasburg settled in, but what happened in first?

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg was able to finish six innings for the Nationals on Saturday, keeping his club in its matchup with the New York Mets.

After the first inning, he surrendered just one run in the next five frames, allowing only three hits.

But in the first inning, the Mets connected against him, scoring three runs off four hits. Three of those hits were consecutive: a single, double and a triple that lifted the Mets to a 3-0 lead. The Mets eventually won the game 11-8.

In that first inning, Strasburg struck out Brandon Nimmo, but then allowed a single to Pete Alonso. Robinson CanĂ³ went down swinging for the second out, so Strasburg had a chance facing Michael Conforto to get out of the opening frame unscathed.

But Conforto singled to put two men on. Wilson Ramos doubled to score two runs. Jeff McNeil then tripled to plate Ramos. Strasburg struck out Amed Rosario to end the inning, but the Mets had the lead they needed to get rolling.

The Nats then battled all the way back from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits to tie the game 4-4 before the bullpen faltered.

Strasburg-Arm-Wrapped-White-in-Dugout-Sidebar.jpgSo what did Strasburg think of his work on the day?

“I got better as the game went on,” Strasburg said. “I mean, well, I thought my stuff was pretty good in the first. They were just whacking all over the place. Sometimes that happens. Just got to try and weather the storm, keep the team in the ballgame.”

Conforto’s single came into a Nationals defensive shift and also contributed to Strasburg having to cover third base. The hit allowed the Mets to set up camp with men on second and third for Ramos’s heroics.

“It was a good piece of hitting on his part,” Strasburg said. “I left it up a little bit. I think if I throw a good one, he swings and misses. I probably needed to keep the ball in front of me a little bit more. Luckily, it caromed off the fence.”

Strasburg said he and catcher Kurt Suzuki “just kind of changed sequences a little bit” after that rough first inning.

And even as rough as the first inning went, Strasburg takes some solace in the way he was able to hang in the start and actually felt like he had more in the tank in the end, at 96 pitches.

“It’s the first start and come out feeling really good,” Strasburg said. “Still feeling fresh. Felt like I could have gone further. That’s the big positive and just going to continue to focus on the process and focus on sharpening things up.”

Strasburg’s velocity is hovering around 93-94 mph, which is a tick lower than his usual mid-90s velocity, but he is mixing pitches well. So, yes, the first inning didn’t go as planned for Strasburg. But being able to finish strong is a good sign for the right-hander. He begins the regular season in good physical condition: no pain, no ailments needed to heal as April begins.

“Stras had a rough first inning,” said Nats manager Davey Martinez. “He settles down. Pitches a lot better. Keeps us in the ballgame.”

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