Strasburg live-blog: Baseballtown, USA
9:28 p.m.: Drew Storen pitched two scoreless innings to lock down the Senators' 1-0 victory and improve Strasburg's record to 3-0 with one no-decision. Because this was the first game of a double-header, Strasburg's between-games interview session was brief and included only him. Here is a sampling of his comments:
On his start: "The big thing I did tonight was keep the ball down and work in and out... The big thing with these hitters is you have to establish the strike zone -- let the hitter know you're gonna go in, and you're gonna go in hard."
On facing the Phillies for the second straight time: "I thought it was great to face pretty much the same lineup again as I did in Harrisburg. Hitters are going to have a different plan after they see you the first time around. It was good to see I was still able to go out there and keep them off balance."
On what's left for him to accomplish at Class AA: "Definitely gotta stick with the program here, gotta go out there and keep building on the previous starts.... I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I'm learning a lot. We have a great team, a great pitching staff. When the time comes [to be promoted] I'm going to be very excited. But I'm living in the now."
7:51 p.m.: Strasburg's pitching line: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. His season ERA? 0.52. Opposing batters are hitting .115 against him. This simply isn't a fair fight.
7:46 p.m.: Strasburg lost his perfect game in the top of the fifth on a weird strikeout-passed ball, with Phillies left fielder Michael Spidale reaching first with one out when Strasburg's third strike (a low, 96-mph fastball) eluded catcher Sean Rooney. As a result, the inning was Strasburg's toughest, as he needed 18 pitches (12 strikes) to get out of it -- coaxing a pair of grounders to shortstop. The strikeout was his sixth of the game, and it appears Strasburg's night is finished (after 64 pitches, 42 strikes), as Senators closer Drew Storen is warming in the bullpen. (And speaking of closers, Brad Lidge has entered the game for the Phillies.)
7:35 p.m.: The legend grows. Strasburg, looking like a right-handed Tony Gwynn, just lined a two-out single to center to bring home the first run of the game, as Sean Rooney (Strasburg's roommate) scored from second when the throw from Phillies center fielder Tyson Gillies short-hopped catcher Kevin Nelson.
7:27 p.m.: Make it 12 up, 12 down. Strasburg just filleted the top third of the lineup -- getting Gillies to ground to third, coaxing a fly ball to center from Freddy Galvis (the first Phillies batter to get a ball out of the infield) and striking out Domonic Brown on a nasty breaking ball. Strasburg is perfect through four, with 46 pitches (30 for strikes).
7:15 p.m.: Strasburg just undressed the bottom third of the Phillies' lineup, retiring the side on a weak grounder to third and a pair of strikeouts. If you're counting, that's four K's for the big right-hander. The only slight hiccup was going to a 3-1 count to the opposing pitcher, Michael Cisco, but Strasburg set him down with a pair of 96-mph fastballs. Interestingly, he seems to be throwing few straight four-seamers. I'm seeing some cutters and some sinkers. Through three innings: 37 pitches, 24 strikes. Nine up, nine down. He might not get much opportunity to work on pitching from the stretch tonight.
7:02 p.m.: Another easy inning for Strasburg: Grounder to second, grounder to short, strikeout. The strikeout, of Phillies third baseman Brandon Pinckney, was a tremendous piece of pitching. Strasburg started him with a 97-mph fastball (it looked to me like a cutter, tailing away from the right-handed hitter), which Pinckney fouled off. After missing with a fastball, Strasburg unleashed a wicked curve that Pinckney, back on his heels, missed by about two feet. Another curve buckled Pinckney's knees, but missed just outside for ball two. Finally, after Pinckney fouled off a fastball, Strasburg brought out his changeup, which dropped off the table and under Pinckney's swing. Strike three. Strasburg is at 24 pitches (16 strikes) through two innings. (Incidentally, scouts behind home plate are saying the stadium radar gun is slow by about two mph. So beginning with this entry, the radar gun readings I quote will be the stadium gun, plus two.)
6;48 p.m.: Either the radar gun here is slow, or the chilly weather is taking something off Strasburg's fastball -- but whatever the reason, The Phenom was clocking in at 92-96 mph in the first inning. Nonetheless, it was a breeze -- a strikeout of leadoff man Tyson Gillies (a 95-mph called third strike on the outside corner), and a pair of weak grounders to second base. Twelve pitches, seven strikes.
6:08 p.m.: Reading, Pa., bills itself as Baseballtown, and the stadium that houses the Class AA Reading Phillies, First Energy Stadium, might just be the coolest, most charming minor-league ballpark I've ever seen. Want an example? The visiting players have to cross the concourse, and wade through the fans, to get from the clubhouse to the field -- and, in fact, Stephen Strasburg (escorted by a pair of ushers and Nationals PR representative Bill Gluvna) has just made that walk, on his way to the bullpen to begin warming up.
Tonight (6:35 p.m. first pitch) will be Strasburg's fourth start for the Harrisburg Senators, and will also mark the first time he will face a team for the second time -- he also faced the Phillies six days ago in Harrisburg. I'm interested in seeing how he handles this lineup the second time through.
It's basically the same deal as last time for Strasburg -- five innings or 85 pitches, whichever comes first. It's also the first game of a double-header, forced by Monday night's rainout, and both games will be seven innings.
Adding to the buzz tonight is the fact Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge is in Reading on a rehabilitation assignment, and is scheduled to throw an inning or two late in the first game.
I'll be back soon with an inning-by-inning update on Strasburg's start.
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