Strasburg live-blog: Return to Syracuse
8:25 p.m.: Strasburg is indeed out of the game. Here are his pertinent pitching lines:
Tonight: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Class AAA: 23 1/3 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 27 K (0.39 ERA)
Overall: 45 1/3 IP, 22 H, 11 R, 5 ER, 10 BB, 54 K (0.99 ERA)
8:20 p.m.: A quick 1-2-3 fifth inning (Strasburg's first since the first), and it appears the Chiefs are going to lift him here after five innings. Pitching coach Greg Booker just motioned to the bullpen to get a right-hander up after the inning ended. Nothing is wrong with Strasburg -- who appeared disappointed in the dugout when Booker told him he was done. Strasburg has only thrown 52 pitches (36 strikes), but the Nationals may be looking to shut him down early in his final minor league starts, in order to save some bullets for the majors.
8:05 p.m.: And there goes Strasburg's perfect ERA in Class AAA. The Mud Hens just touched him for three hits -- two singles and a double -- scoring one run (earned, this time) and hitting him hard again. Carlos Guillen, a three-time all-star for the Detroit Tigers (playing for Toledo on a rehab assignment), started it off with a solid single to right on a changeup. After a strikeout of Ryan Strieby (curve, swinging), Jeff Frazier doubled into the left field corner, and Casper Wells drove in the run with a sharp grounder through the hole between third and short. Strasburg escaped without further damage by striking out Brent Dlugach (95-mph fastball, looking) and getting Deik Scram to line out to shortstop, where Pedro Lopez made an excellent diving catch. Strasburg is throwing a lot of strikes -- 30 of them, out of 44 total pitches -- and the Mud Hens are being aggressive, swinging early in the count.
7:43 p.m.: After 20 scoreless innings, Strasburg just gave up his first run in Class AAA, although it was unearned, scoring from third on a passed ball by catcher Devin Ivany. Strasburg was hit fairly hard in the inning, with Deik Scram smoking a grounder past first baseman Josh Whitesell and into the Mud Hens' bullpen for a leadoff triple. Strasburg nearly escaped the inning, getting a weak foul pop and a smashed grounder to second (a nice play by Eric Bruntlett), keeping Scram at third base. But Ivany couldn't handle a low, 93-mph sinker, which went all the way to the wall, allowing Scram to score easily. The inning then ended when Scott Sizemore lined out to third. Eight pitches, five for strikes -- and 28 pitches (18 strikes) for the game.
7:31 p.m.: Strasburg got his revenge on Casper Wells, striking him out on a nasty 83-mph curve after setting him up with two 97-mph fastballs. The other two outs in the inning were on the ground, including a soft comebacker that required Strasburg to come off the mound to his right to make the play. Thirteen pitches in the inning, eight for strikes -- so he's at 20 pitches (13 strikes) through two.
7:16 p.m.: Nice, quick, seven-pitch inning for the phenom, including a strikeout (looking) of Scott Sizemore on an excellent curve ball. The other outs were both in the air (a soft liner to center and a lazy fly to left), which is noteworthy because Strasburg has had entire starts with no fly-ball outs whatsoever. The radar readout here at Alliance Bank Stadium isn't working, but I'm told his fastball was sitting at around 96 mph in the first inning.
7:05 p.m.: Welcome to another installment of the Strasburg live-blog, your inning-by-inning guide to all things Strasburgian. And what a lovely evening it is here in Syracuse -- mostly sunny skies, warm, a slight breeze. We've got Stan Kasten and Pat Corrales in town from the Nationals' front office tonight. (In regards to the ongoing speculation over the date of Strasburg's big league debut, Kasten points out: "The only way to be sure not to miss it is to buy a season ticket.")
A couple of notes before we get started here tonight:
*Strasburg will have a new catcher -- Devin Ivany -- since Carlos Maldonado has been called up by the Nationals and is on his way to San Francisco. Strasburg worked extremely well with Maldonado; he rarely shook off a sign and went out of his way to praise him after each start. Ivany caught Strasburg during some intrasquad games at minor league spring training camp, but never in an actual game.
*In the lineup for the Toledo Mud Hens tonight is the only person to hit a grand slam off Strasburg since he signed with the Nationals last August. Casper Wells, Toledo's center fielder and No. 6 hitter, connected off Strasburg last October in an Arizona Fall League game -- the third of three hitters who homered off Strasburg during one disastrous inning.
In fact, Wells remains the last hitter to homer off Strasburg in non-exhibition play. (Strasburg allowed two homers during spring training, but has not been taken deep during eight minor league starts this year.)
I talked to Wells this afternoon, and he said he hit a hanging curve: "I was trying to stay on the fastball. He left [the curve] up, and I kind of got it out in front [of the plate] and fortunately enough it went out. He's a good pitcher. I'm not going to beat around the bush. But you compete in the game, and you get a good pitch to hit and try to take advantage of it."
When I asked Wells about Strasburg's body language on the mound that day, as he gave up three homers, Wells said he remained composed. "He carried himself really well," Wells said. "I was looking right at him when he gave up those home runs, because I wanted to see if he was kicking at the dirt or whatever. But when he gave up those home runs, he almost looked like he was just like, 'Ah, whatever, you got lucky.' He just got the ball back and went at it."
*Also in the Mud Hens' lineup: Three-time MLB all-star Carlos Guillen, on a rehab assignment.
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