Strasburg live-blog: Goodbye, Harrisburg?
6:23 p.m.: There won't be any word tonight about Stephen Strasburg's next start, according to the Nationals. For now, the Senators are operating under the assumption he will start for them, as scheduled, on Friday. At the very least, he has a television interview scheduled for Monday at the ballpark and his usual between-starts bullpen session on Tuesday.
Here are a couple of key quotes from Strasburg:
*On the strike zone: "You gotta keep putting it where you want to put it. And I definitely went out there to do that. I just wasn't getting the call."
*On learning from this experience: "There's always going to be days when things just aren't going your way.... That's the greatest thing about these types of days. That's when you can learn the most. As a pitcher, I went away from just consistently throwing the same quality pitches in the strike zone, because they did put it in play and get on base. Instead, I tried to make an even better pitch and that's when I went out of the strike zone."
4:04 p.m.: Strasburg was just lifted with two outs in the top of the fifth, with 79 pitches. His pitch-limit was a strict 85, and the Nationals/Senators didn't want to yank him in the middle of an at-bat. (By the way, Senators hitting coach Troy Gingrich did the honors, since Manager Randy Knorr had been ejected in the previous half-inning.) The fifth found Strasburg in more trouble. He hit the leadoff hitter, Chase d'Arnaud, in the chest with a 94-mph sinker, then gave up a bunt single and a line-drive single to right to load the bases. On the next batter, the Senators pulled off a rare 5-2-3 double-play, at which point Strasburg was pulled. Hassan Pena just came on in relief to close out the inning. Strasburg's line is a bit underwhelming: 4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. For the season, he has thrown 22 innings, allowed 13 hits and six walks, while striking out 27. His ERA has gone from 0.52 before the game to 1.64 now.
3:47 p.m.: A much more Strasburgian inning in the fourth. Three up, three down -- including a pair of swinging strikeouts on fastballs (98 and 97 mph, respectively). His pitch count is up to 72 (44 strikes).
3:28 p.m.: More command issues for Strasburg -- and more umpire issues. He managed to escape the third inning, despite a leadoff walk (his third of the game) and another infield single, without giving up a run (thanks primarily to a 6-4-3 double-play on a well-struck grounder). But as Strasburg came off the mound, he engaged umpire Byrne in a protracted stare-down. Although it appeared as no words were exchanged, Byrne gave a gesture as if to say, "What's your problem, kid?" And as Strasburg hit the top step of the Senators' dugout, he shook his head in disgust. Strasburg needed 21 pitches (11 strikes) that inning, and he's at 58 pitches (only 32 strikes) through three. His fastball is sitting mostly 95-97 mph, although he has touched 99 at least once.
3:05 p.m.: Well, this was interesting. The top of the second saw Strasburg laboring more than at any other point this season, although the results -- four runs for the visiting Altoona Curve, on three hits, two walks and an error -- will look worse than it really was for Strasburg. All told, Strasburg needed a season-high 30 pitches to make it through the inning, and only 15 of them were strikes. Strasburg was visibly frustrated with the strike zone of home-plate ump Jon Byrne (and pitching coach Randy Tomlin had some words for Byrne as he left the mound following a mid-inning visit to Strasburg). None of the three singles off Strasburg were well-hit -- one was an infield single, one a bloop into shallow center and the last a one-hopper over the head of first baseman Chris Marrero. A throwing error on second baseman Michael Martinez contributed to the carnage, and Strasburg was charged with three earned runs, and one unearned, in the inning. His ERA just ballooned to 1.86.
2:37 p.m.: Easy, breezy first inning for The Phenom. A four-pitch strikeout, with Chase d'Arnaud waving at a curve ball for strike three. A broken-bat grounder to second. A tapper back to the mound. Seven pitches, six strikes.
2:34 p.m.: We're underway. Strasburg's first pitch: 97 mph, called strike one.
2:03 p.m.: An announcement was just made at the stadium that we're looking at a 2:30 p.m. start time.
1:55 p.m.: We're back at Metro Bank Park this afternoon for what might be -- but might not be -- Stephen Strasburg's final Class AA start. While there still has been no official confirmation of the Nationals' plans for Strasburg beyond today -- and the Harrisburg Senators' coaches (Manager Randy Knorr and pitching coach Randy Tomlin) say they have not been notified of any moves -- the general outline of the organization's strategy with Strasburg, from the beginning, has had him making five starts for Harrisburg and five more for Class AAA Syracuse before joining the Nationals in early June. If a move is made, we may find out something after the game, but the Nationals could also wait until Monday.
Seems like it has rained for each of Strasburg's previous four starts for the Senators, and I'm sorry to report we're going to have a delay this afternoon. We're 10 or so minutes from the scheduled first pitch of 2:05 p.m., and the tarp has just been placed over the infield. No word on how long a delay we're looking at.
If this, indeed, is Strasburg's final start here, I'd like to thank the Senators -- especially Knorr, Tomlin, strength and conditioning coach Tony Rogowski and PR man/radio broadcaster Terry Byrom -- for their tremendous hospitality towards me over the past four weeks. I'd also like to thank Geoff Morrow, the Senators beat writer for the Harrisburg Patriot-News, for the insight, camaraderie and restaurant recommendations.
Finally, allow me to introduce you to the chorus of "Harrisburg," a gorgeous song by the talented singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. If you don't know him, you should. (You're also in luck: He's playing shows in D.C. and Baltimore next weekend.)
It's a long way to Heaven; it's closer to Harrisburg
And that's still a long way from the place where we are
And if evil exists its a pair of train tracks
And the devil is a railroad car
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