Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Strasburg, Nats not so hot in loss

Associated Press photo
Stephen Strasburg suffered his first loss of the season this afternoon.
The lore of Stephen Strasburg includes a 14-strikeout debut. It includes a triple-digit fastball and a knee-buckling curveball. And it includes, to date, a wildly successful recovery from Tommy John surgery.

It may now also include the case of the unfortunately placed ointment.

As if the top of the first inning of today's 6-1 loss to the Padres -- featuring a routine fly ball falling between three Nationals fielders, a sudden deluge requiring an eight-minute rain delay and three San Diego runs -- wasn't strange enough for Strasburg, manager Davey Johnson suggested afterward his young ace was also bothered by the misapplication of some heating balm.

"I can't really tell you what the problem was, but some hot stuff got misplaced," Johnson said in cryptic fashion. "It was on his shoulder, and evidently ... I don't know how it got to where it got. But it was uncomfortable, to say the least."

Strasburg would not discuss the subject when asked about it and seemed perturbed his manager volunteered the information at all.

"You know, I'm going to keep that in the clubhouse," the right-hander said.

Whatever truly happened, it was only one of multiple calamities that befell Strasburg during what proved to be one of the least-effective of his 25 career starts. In lasting only four innings while allowing four runs, the 23-year-old racked up 81 pitches and put his team in a hole it couldn't escape.

"I think I can learn a lot from this outing," he said. "I've got to just find the positives and remember that there's always going to be days like this where nothing's really going your way."

It began only six pitches into the afternoon, when Will Venable lofted what looked like a routine flyball to shallow left-center field. Roger Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Ian Desmond all pursued the pop-up, then all pulled up and watched the ball fall harmlessly to the ground for a gift double.

"It has nothing to do with communication," Bernadina said. "That ball, I should have caught it."

Strasburg tried to maintain his composure in the wake of the defensive gaffe, but it didn't take long before he had to deal with another distraction: A sudden cloudburst that sent the crowd of 23,902 scurrying for cover.

The umpires, led by crew chief Brian Gorman, let play continue under the poor conditions, and Strasburg clearly didn't look comfortable with it. He struggled to get a good grip on the ball, fidgeted with both the mound and the rosin bag and wound up walking two batters and allowing another single, loading the bases with two outs.

Then, with the count 3-2 to Padres catcher Jeff Baker and the rain coming down in buckets, Gorman finally pulled both teams off the field and called for the tarp.

"I mean, the ball was absolutely drenched," Strasburg said. "I probably could've hurt somebody."

Before the grounds crew could cover up the infield, though, the rain stopped. So after only an eight-minute delay to spread some drying agent on the mound, the plate and around the bases, Strasburg retook the mound, still facing Baker with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count.

"It's kind of like: OK, now I don't have any margin for error," Strasburg said.

The right-hander wound up grooving a fastball over the plate, then watched as Baker sent it scurrying back up the middle and past a diving Desmond for a two-run single that put San Diego up 3-0.

"But, I mean, you can pitch through those things," Johnson said. "Like I say, the fly ball dropping just exacerbates the situation. And then the rain delay doesn't make things easier."

Everything that transpired after that disastrous first inning almost seemed insignificant. Strasburg served up a solo homer to James Darnell in the third, then was yanked after laboring through the fourth. In the process, he saw his ERA jump to 2.25 from 1.64.

Facing a significant deficit, the Nationals could not produce a rally against Padres starter Anthony Bass. The 24-year-old right-hander carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and carried a shutout into the fifth, until Bryce Harper belted his second home run in as many days.

Harper's blast into the center-field bleachers made him the first teenager to homer on back-to-back days since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989, but it did nothing to spark his teammates into a late offensive splurge. Bass wound up tossing eight innings of five-hit ball before finally turning things over to flamethrowing closer Andrew Cashner.

"Good-looking young pitcher," Johnson said of Bass. "Thought we had him kind of on the ropes a couple times, but just couldn't get the hit."

The Nationals never came close to getting Cashner on the ropes. San Diego's young closer made relatively quick work of the ninth, ending the game with a flourish as he blew a 101-mph fastball past Harper.

Thus the Nationals trudged off the field following a rare lopsided loss, only their fourth this season by more than four runs.

But their first in a game that featured a botched fly ball, an eight-minute rain delay and, of course, some unfortunately placed analgesic ointment.

"It was just tough conditions all around," Strasburg said. "But I'm not one to make excuses. It's just one of those games where you go out there and do your best to overcome the obstacles. Sometimes you just can't get out of it the way you want to."

50 comments:

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Happens in our bathroom all the time. Jesus, here's the solution:

Ben-Gay on the top shelf.
Toothpaste on the bottom shelf.

NEVER get them mixed up.

Mr. Doggett said...

Why do I get the feeling Stras is trying his hardest not to burst into hysterics? "Tough conditions all around?" Are you kidding me? He might as well come out and say it :)
Gio would ;)

baseballswami said...

This last week has just been weird on so many levels.

Swift Eagle said...

I guess today Stras really was a "Fire-balling pitcher"

SFNats said...

The lesson here for you kids at home is: Always scratch yourself before you apply the Icy Hot.

peric said...

Okay has to be the most hilarious post ever! Of course if they said that Henry he would still get skewered along with Gorzelanny. ~wry grin~

SonnyG10 said...

If Stras's ointment got to where I think it got to, he has my sympathy and admiration. That happened to me once when I was a young lad and I remember I was in agony. I sat in a bathtub of ice cold water trying to turn the heat down. I can't imagine trying to pitch a ball game while going through that.

baseballswami said...

Do you ever wonder what a day in the life of Steve McCatty is like? Has he really seen and heard it all?

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Post of the day candidate:

Swift Eagle said...

I guess today Stras really was a "Fire-balling pitcher"

(Fill in your own joke here.)

NatsLady said...

Cueto getting shelled in Atlanta, where no outfielders let fly balls drop in and it's not raining (can't speak to the Hot Stuff). These Aces--just can't be trusted.

peric said...

Davey's lesson of the day: Use your head for something other than a hat rack or your easily avoided errors get aired in public.

peric said...

Yes aces are as bad as closers they can't be trusted. Only long relievers from Ohio.

waddu eye no said...

maybe stras should change his walk on music to some buster poindexter

or make sure that the fly goes in the ointment, not vice versa

that's enough. i'm getting on my own nerves already. glad i was there for the HR, though. and back tomorrow.

Section 3, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

Wait, so the strawberry ointment doesn't actually go ON your strawberries??

Section 3, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

Maybe he can have some new walkup music.

NatsLady said...

Leon really could be back in four weeks? Hard to believe, but if true then there is no reason to make a panic trade, is there?

natsfan1a said...

So, you're saying that if he was a reliever, his entrance music would be this? All together now: that's gotta hurt. :-)

Section 3, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

sorry, wadddueye, meant to credit you on the walkup music

natsfan1a said...

And we totally have to get McCatty on a wired Wednesday. I'll bet the two mound visits today were classics. :-)

Seriously, Stephen did seem to be having problems getting a grip in the first. Should we be worried about why he was using the ointment to start with?

Re. our offense, I wasn't here in those days, but it reminded me of stories I'd heard about the Senators of Frank Howard's day. The Nats lost, and Harper homered.

That was a dopey rain delay. It did cause us to strike up a conversation with the gent next to us, though. I was joshing about the umps not hustling back onto the field afterwards, and he somewhat sheepishly revealed that he was an ump. Kinda cool to have one's own personal ump sitting nearby. I kept asking him stuff. So, what do you think of that guy's strike zone? Shouldn't there have been an error there? And so forth and so on.

natsfan1a said...

This could work, too.

Faraz Shaikh said...

nice pick, sec 3. good way to keep non-nats fans away from park.

natsfan1a said...

ohnevermind. They just use it to limber up before a start.

waddu eye no said...

sec 3 - credit or blame?

btw - daughters bday party in sec 115 row bb tomorrow. anyone around? it would be nice to meet some of my anonymous friends there. but there won't be cake.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

"I can't really tell you what the problem was, but some hot stuff got misplaced," Johnson said in cryptic fashion. "It was on his shoulder, and evidently ... I don't know how it got to where it got. But it was uncomfortable, to say the least."

WASH HANDS WELL BEFORE YOU GO TO #1

natsfan1a said...

Or scratch.

Oh, I meant to ask. Do they always list "Ferris Bueller, Central High" among the scoreboard announcements for day games on weekdays? Can't recall seeing it before. Funny. :-)

ehay2k said...

Hmm... what about "White Heat, Red Hot' by Judas Priest? Or Snoop Dogg's "Drop it While it's Hot"?

Maybe best would be MIMS' "This is Why I'm Hot"

In ten years, Strasburg will laugh about this. But on Sunday, he will plan to take his frustrations on the O's.

peric said...

Courtesy of Luke Skywalker ... er Erickson at NationalsProspects.com:


Top Prospect Anthony Rendon update from Houston, Texas

peric said...

His walk up music should almost certainly be "Great Balls of Fire".

Section 3, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

Interesting twist on "He pitches like his hair is on fire."

naterialguy said...

Gonaditude

That old-school, prestigious way of Scooter said...

1a, I heard that Ferris saw 1776 the other night. I guess he's in town; maybe he was there today? Seems someone here prolly woulda heard about it, though.

NatsLady said...

Since we have a series with the Barves (that's NOT a typo) coming up, I just had to post this link:

an-absolute-sick-burn-on-the-braves-and-mlb

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/05/15/quote-of-the-day-an-absolute-sick-burn-on-the-braves-and-mlb/

natsfan1a said...

Could be. Dude has tons of energy, as sick as he is.

That old-school, prestigious way of Scooter said...

1a, I heard that Ferris saw 1776 the other night. I guess he's in town; maybe he was there today? Seems someone here prolly woulda heard about it, though.
May 16, 2012 12:39 AM

320R2S15 said...

It concerns me that everybody is talking about the weather,atomic "balm", stuff like that, why do we need to go there at all. The Nats lost, Strasburg had a bad day,let's move on. Everyone needs to shut up and play. The center fielder needed to take charge on that texas lgr. The Shark had no business taking the blame for that, again, just stop all the talking and play baseball.

natsfan1a said...

Seeing as how have almost 12 hours until they play, I vote for continuing the chit-chat. :-)

natsfan1a said...

But if we're going to assign blame, there was also the little matter of the Nats bats. ;-)

320R2S15 said...

Yea, where the heck is Zimmerman? any body know why he only uses the inner half of the plate?

natsfan1a said...
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natsfan1a said...
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natsfan1a said...
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natsfan1a said...

Just saw this on the Nats site. Atta way, Bob! (And this is the perfect opportunity for Billy to start partaking of that tasty red Nats beverage - right, Michele? ;-))

"Nationals TV broadcaster Bob Carpenter will be doing the play-by-play for the Nationals-Orioles game for FOX this Saturday at Nationals Park. His partner in the booth will be former Major Leaguer Billy Ripken.

Carpenter, who has been the TV play-by-play voice of the Nationals since 2006, will also do the Nationals-Orioles game on June 23 for FOX when the teams play at Camden Yards. "
May 16, 2012 8:13 AM

natsfan1a said...

On another note, interesting tidbit for anyone who is in search of a media guide. As usual, early in the season I check at stores and stands to see whether they're in. As usual, no dice so far. But yesterday a gal at the team store on the club level said that they had been "lost in the stockroom" and that another batch had to be printed up. (How do you lose a shipment of media guides in the stockroom?) She couldn't say when more would be available.

Oddly enough, I just checked and the guides are showing up for sale on e-bay from a number of different sellers. Things that make you go hmmmm....and it just happens to be the Bryce Harper rookie year guide. I'm just saying, "lost in the stockroom"...

Brother Juniper said...

We should try the ointment on Henry - give him something to think about other than that guy he just put on first.

Funny that Davey just had to tell the story.

MicheleS said...

1A.. Billy said he would start drinking the KoolAid if the Nats were still in it by the AllStar Break. Don't worry, I plan on holding him to it.

Brother Juniper. For Henry, I was thinking a garter belt, or something so he can breathe through his eyelids.

ehay2k said...

Oh, I see a branding opportunity for the makers of Kool-Aid - put a Curly W on the packets and watch the sales go Bang! Zoom!

On second thought, you're probably only talking about 20K-30K additional sales, which probably won't cover the printing costs.

As you were, Mr. Kool-Aid.

Tcostant said...

I think this was a prank go wrong, why else would Stras want to "keep inside the clubhouse". If Gilbert can poop in a shoe, doesn't mean that someone wouldn't put icey hot on a jock.

hokiepokster92 said...

Tcostant,

I think you hit it on the head. This was a cllubhouse prank gone awry. If so, it was stupid because it probably cost them yesterday's ballgame.

If you want to prank Stras before a spring training start, that's fine. But why would you do it prior to a regular season start? This club is already dealing with enough issues. When your ace takes the mound, you have to take advantage and lock up a win, especially when facing one of the worst teams in the NL.

natsfan1a said...

Maybe they were trying to prank someone else and accidentally targeted the wrong, um, equipment.

ehay2k said...

Davey's postgame clubhouse rant: "It's supposed to be a hot FOOT!"

Tcostant said...

Thanks.

I couldn't agree more. If you must do something like this, make it after POST_GAME shower.

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