Friday, March 19, 2010

Nats vs. Cardinals (ss) -- 3/19/10

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Space Coast Stadium will be packed again tonight for Stephen Strasburg's outing.
VIERA, Fla. -- And we're back to baseball at Space Coast Stadium. Following yesterday's off-day and a free morning today, the Nationals return to action this evening against a split-squad group from St. Louis that looks more like a regular squad from Class AAA Memphis.

No Albert Pujols. No Matt Holliday. No Yadier Molina. No Colby Rasmus. No Chris Carpenter. Not even Felipe Lopez. All of those guys stayed back in Jupiter, with all but Holliday in the lineup against the Marlins.

Instead, we get to see the likes of David Freese, Allen Craig and Nick Stavinoha take their cuts against Stephen Strasburg. I have a hunch Strasburg will win that battle, but I suppose we'll see.

Check back here throughout the afternoon and evening for updates, and check back on the home page for non-game-related news...

Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Fla.
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: No TV/WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Sunny, 64 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to CF
RF Willie Harris
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Ian Desmond
CF Justin Maxwell
LF Willy Taveras
P Stephen Strasburg

SS Tyler Greene
CF Jon Jay
1B Allen Craig
RF Nick Stavinoha
3B David Freese
LF Tyler Henley
C Jason LaRue
2B Ruben Gotay
P Kyle McClellan

4:27 p.m. -- Check the homepage for a full post on several news items involving Stephen Strasburg, Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen, Cristian Guzman, Ian Desmond, Nyjer Morgan, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. Whew, that was a mouthful.

6:23 p.m. -- Other Nats pitchers on the docket for tonight once Strasburg's four innings are in the books: Miguel Batista, Sean Burnett, Brian Bruney, Jesse English.

7:05 p.m. -- And we are underway with a bang. Tyler Greene crushes Strasburg's first pitch (94 mph fastball) deep to left-center field for a home run. Wow.

7:06 p.m. -- And Strasburg comes right back and strikes out Jon Jay with a 97 mph heater at the letters.

7:08 p.m. -- Another homer, this time from Allen Craig! Took a 2-1 fastball (97 mph) the other way and sent it just inside the right-field foul pole. Cards lead 2-0. The crowd is stunned.

7:12 p.m. -- A strange top of the first is in the books. Strasburg appeared to get out of it, inducing a two-out grounder to short by David Freese. But Ian Desmond made a poor, backhand stab at the ball for an error, keeping the inning alive. Strasburg came back to strike out Tyler Henley on three pitches. So to recap: Two solo homers. Two strikeouts. A groundout. An error. Twenty pitches, 13 strikes.
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Straburg allowed two homers in the first but rebounded quickly after that.
7:32 p.m. -- Watched Strasburg's second inning from the third row behind the plate. Much better, even if it did come against the bottom of the order. Struck out the side, getting Jason LaRue on an 80 mph breaking ball, Ruben Gotay on a 97 mph fastball and pitcher Kyle McClellan on an 81 mph breaking ball. Strasburg's offspeed stuff (the breaking ball and the changeup) looks especially sharp tonight. Total through two innings: 36 pitches, 24 strikes. Oh, by the way, the Nats scored in the bottom of the first on back-to-back doubles by Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Dunn's hit went off the batter's eye in center field. He won't hit a ball any farther this year that's not a home run.

7:36 p.m. -- Who's that guy sitting next to Tony LaRussa on the field, wearing a Cardinals hat, jacket and khaki pants? Why, none other than Bobby Knight. Wouldn't you think he'd rather be watching college basketball tonight than this?

7:39 p.m. -- Stephen Strasburg's first career at-bat: smokes a hard grounder to short. If he had hustled down the line, he might have beat it out!

7:48 p.m. -- Strasburg's offspeed stuff is really working tonight. He struck out Craig on a change-up and had Stavinoha out in front of a slider/curve, resulting in a harmless grounder to short to end the third inning. Strasburg's line so far: 3 ip, 3 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 6 k. 49 pitches, 33 strikes. Cards still lead, 2-1.

7:56 p.m. -- Beautiful hit-and-run base hit for Zimmerman, who put it right through the hole vacated by the second baseman, advancing Kennedy to third. Bobby Knight appreciates those well-executed fundamentals.

8:04 p.m. -- With the bases loaded, Pudge raps a sharp grounder to shortstop. Shielded by Zimmerman, Tyler Greene boots the ball for a run-scoring error. Moments later, Desmond hit a bouncer to third that could have resulted in an inning-ending double play if not for a great takeout slide by Pudge to prevent the throw from ever being made. Nats take the lead, 3-2, after three.

8:17 p.m. -- That will do it for Strasburg, who got off to a rocky start tonight but came out with maybe his best overall outing of the spring. Final line: 4 ip, 4 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 8 k. 73 pitches, 53 strikes. Great strike-to-ball ratio. Tons of foul balls from Cardinals batters who couldn't make solid contact. All in all, a job well done by the rookie. Bobby looks impressed. (And by impressed, I mean, he hasn't thrown any chairs out onto the field so far tonight.)

8:29 p.m. -- In three starts this spring totaling nine innings of work, Stephen Strasburg has yet to record a flyout to an outfielder. 13 groundouts (one of them a double play). 1 popout to the first baseman. 12 strikeouts. Yes, he throws hard and he keeps the ball down in the zone.

8:36 p.m. -- And for those wondering about Strasburg's total pitching line for the spring: 9 ip, 8 h, 2 er, 1 bb, 12 k. 149 pitches, 97 strikes.

8:53 p.m. -- Pudge singles home Zimmerman to put the Nats up 4-2 in the fifth. Desmond ropes a line drive to right field that Stavinoha loses in the lights, loading the bases for Maxwell. And Maxwell delivers a two-run single to left, making it 6-2. Perhaps someone is motivated by his sudden opportunity to win a starting job? And just for good measure, Miguel Batista (batting for himself with the bases loaded and one out) hits a little dribbler to third that is slow enough to allow the fourth run of the inning to score. At the end of five, it's Nats 7, Cards 2.

9:18 p.m. -- Everybody's hitting tonight! Chris Duncan gets into the act with a two-run single, making it 9-3 in the sixth. Batista, by the way, had a shaky top of the inning in allowing a run. With another round of cuts coming up in the next few days, you've got to wonder whether the veteran right-hander could be running out of time. He's not in the mix for a rotation spot anymore. The question now becomes whether he's worth keeping as a long reliever.

10:30 p.m. -- I know this is old news at this point, but I was down in the clubhouse for the game's final two innings and just not got back to my computer. Nats win, 13-5. Full analysis of Strasburg coming up, so check the home page shortly for that.


HabsProf said...

Wow! Except for the absence of Morgan in the outfield (and Strasburg, of course), this is potentially our opening day lineup. This should (heavy emphasis on should) be a win.

NatsFan2005 said...

Mark: What's the real story on Nyjer Morgan? Seems to be something other (or in addition) to a tweaked hamstring.

Natsochist said...

Hey Mark, please be sure to let us know how Baby Jesus looks at the plate. This is his first time getting to swing in ST so far, right?

Anonymous said...

@HabsProf If Willy Tavares is our starting LF on Opening Day, I might throw myself off the Key Bridge.

HabsProf said...

Yeah, missed that. Thought Willingham was in.

Anonymous said...

Willingham has a stiff neck.

Jeff Wang said...

He looks down the nose at us plebes too.

Anonymous said...

Two HR by guys who will not be in the majors for the Cardinals shows us all that Stephen is not ready for the majors, but I like the 2Ks per inning tonight, don't worry kid, it won't be the 1st or last pair of homers you will give up, although you better help yourself out and get into shape and run it out when you hit the ball.

Anonymous said...

On Twitter, you said that Strasburg has a 13-1 Groundout:Flyout ratio, but it is actually 14-1. If you combine that with his marvelous AFL performance of 25-5, that is a combined 39-6 (6.5-1) Groundout:Flyout ratio. To put that into perspective, the leader in the big leagues in that category (Joel Pineiro) had a 1.53 GO:FO ratio. Strasburg's professional career has more than quadrupled that.

Anonymous said...

Souldrummer says-
Mark, any take on the chemistry differences between having Pudge catch and Nieves catch. Were there more shakeoffs or trips to the mound? What was the issue with the first pitch? Is it possible Pudge calls for a get me over heater for the first pitch and some AAA guy gets lucky and hits paydirt?

If anything the two homeruns may have been misleading, with the 2nd possibly wind aided.

On the other hand the willingness to respond to those homeruns by mixing speeds and pounding the strikezone while not giving up fly ball outs is very, very impressive and I agree with you that this may have been his most impressive outing of the spring and not evidence that he'll benefit from minor league batters. Minor league routine, maybe but not minor league batters.

If it weren't for contractual issues, I think that he'd be in the majors on the same schedule as Zimmermann was last year. Start out in the minors but take the fifth starter's turn in the rotation.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Souldrummer: I didn't see any shake-offs from Strasburg, but I wasn't watching that close every time, so it's possible he did it once or twice. The two seemed to work together just fine. Lot of offspeed stuff tonight, more than his previous starts.

As for the No. 5 starter/Zimmermann idea, that won't work this year. The Nats have only one off-day the first week of the season, and they'll need their No. 5 starter on April 11. Last year, I think Zimmermann's spot didn't come up til April 20.

Spike94wl said...


Are the Nats still toying with the idea of putting Storen on the opening day roster? Seems like a better idea to move him up with Stras to me.

Kim said...

Mr. Z,
Appreciate the game commentary. While I don't comment much, I do check your blog every day (at least twice). Hope you haven't regretted your decision to cover S.T. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Wow once again we hit the ball against minor league talent, aren't we great..UGH! It is going to be a long season.

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