Strasburg live-blog: The final (minor-league) chapter
2:49 p.m.: Strasburg is out of the game, as Jeff Mandel just pinch-hit for him in the top of the sixth. His line today: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K (and 1 WP). His final Class AAA ERA will be 1.08, and his overall minor league ERA will be 1.30. If the outcome holds up, with the Chiefs (who now lead 5-0) winning, Strasburg will be 4-1 in Class AAA and 7-2 overall.
2:40 p.m.: The fifth inning required plenty of hard work from the phenom, but he managed to pitch out of a two-on, one-out jam without allowing a run. Mike Cervenak led off with a single to left, and, with one out, moved to third when Ruben Tejada hit a chopper over the head of Chiefs first baseman Jose Whitesell and into right field. But Strasburg then struck out Gee, the opposing pitcher, and got Jesus Feliciano to ground weakly to second to end the inning. Still, Strasburg went to full counts to three batters in the inning -- which makes it eight times in the game -- and needed 26 pitches to finish it off. He's at 89 pitches (54 strikes), which means he may be done (Atahualpa Severino is warming up in the Chiefs' bullpen), or they could allow him to come out for one more batter, then exit to a standing ovation.
2:17 p.m.: And Strasburg just singled to center in the bottom of the fourth. A little blooper on an 0-2 pitch, but nonetheless he is now hitting .400 (4 of 10) in the minors, between Class AA and AAA combined.
2:11 p.m.: A 1-2-3 fourth inning for the phenom, with a strikeout of Russ Adams (curve ball, looking), his fourth of the game. His command was also much better, as he got ahead (0-2 or 1-2) of all three batters in the inning. Mike Hessman managed to lift an 0-2 curve ball to deep left, but it died shy of the warning track. Twelve pitches in the inning, and 63 for the game (38 for strikes).
1:56 p.m.: More command issues for Strasburg, as the third inning turned into a bit of an adventure. He walked the opposing pitcher, Dillon Gee, with two outs, then gave up a single on a soft liner to left by Jesus Feliciano, before retiring Turner on a fly to left to end the inning. Strasburg's body language during the Gee at-bat betrayed some displeasure at the strike zone of home-plate umpire Mike Lollo, and apparently Chiefs Manager Trett Jewett saw it, as he jogged out to the mound to give Strasburg a pep talk following the walk. Strasburg also fell behind 2-0 to the leadoff batter that inning, the fourth time he has done so in the game. Fifty-one pitches through three, with 30 strikes.
1:43 p.m.: No retaliation issues so far, as Strasburg just led off the top of the third and went down looking at a curve ball from Bisons starter Dillon Gee. Later in the inning, Pete Orr homered to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead.
1:38 p.m.: That's six up, six down for Strasburg, after he blew through the middle of the Bisons' lineup. Strikeout, foul out, ground out. The way he pitched Mike Hessman was a clinic on power-pitching. He started with a fastball that missed inside, then came back with a curve and a changeup, both for strikes. Ahead 1-2, he reached back for a 99 mph fastball, which Hessman fouled back. After missing with a curve, he tried another fastball, and again Hessman fouled it back. Finally, after overthrowing a fastball that missed badly outside, Strasburg unleashed a beautiful 3-2 changeup (at 91 mph!) that Hessman just waved at for strike three. Seventeen pitches in the inning, and 31 so far for the game.
1:23 p.m.: A good first inning for the phenom -- two weak ground outs and a strikeout of Mike Jacobs, who gazed at a pretty 3-2 curve ball for strike three. Strasburg's command wasn't very good -- he went to 2-0 counts to each of the first two batters. But his fastball has a lot of life today -- it topped out at 99 mph. He did throw one first-pitch curve -- that was to Jacobs, but it missed for ball one. Fourteen pitches in the inning, seven for strikes. Oh, and he is due to hit fifth in the top of the second.
1 p.m.: Greetings from Coca-Cola Field in lovely downtown Buffalo. Today, as you may have heard, will be Stephen Strasburg's final minor league start, as -- barring anything unforeseen -- he will be called up and make his major-league debut for the Nationals on Tuesday. (As a side note, I want to thank the handful of friends, Syracuse Chiefs players and random wiseguys who have congratulated me on my own imminent promotion to the big leagues. It was a long time coming, and I'm just thankful for the opportunity the organization has given me.)
Now then, here are a few other pregame notes, as we get set for today's 1:05 p.m. first pitch (carried live on Versus):
*Six innings or 95 pitches, whichever comes first.
*Even though the host Buffalo Bisons are without second baseman (and the starting first baseman for the 2009 New York Mets) Daniel Murphy -- who left last night's game with a knee injury and is off to New York for an MRI, this will probably be the toughest lineup Strasburg has faced in the minors. It includes, the current International League batting leader (Jesus Feliciano, hitting .386), the IL's current home runs (18) and RBI (55) leader (Mike Hessman), and two other players who have been big league regulars -- former Mets and Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs and former Blue Jays shortstop Russ Adams (now playing the outfield for the Bisons)..
*One thing to watch for today with Strasburg: The Nationals, along with the Chiefs' field staff, have asked him not to throw so many first-pitch fastballs, as hitters have gotten some good, aggressive swings on that pitch in Strasburg's last couple of outings. So I'll be watching to see if he throws more first-pitch curves or changeups.
*Here is some interesting backstory to an issue that may or may not affect Strasburg today: Last night in the seventh inning, Chiefs outfielder Leonard Davis made a questionable slide into second base, rolling into Murphy's knee. It was that play that sent Murphy out of the game (and possibly has ended Murphy's season, depending on what his MRI says). The Bisons were upset about the slide after the game -- with veteran utility man Andy Green telling the Buffalo News it was "one of the dirtiest slides I've ever seen" -- but curiously, they did not retaliate against Davis during the game, even though he batted again one inning after the slide. (The Bisons were already upset that, earlier in the game, pitcher Bobby Livingston was ejected for hitting Chiefs batters Josh Whitesell in the helmet with a pitch -- especially since the pitch was very clearly a curve ball.) Davis is out of the Chiefs' lineup today, but there is some rumbling about some possible retaliation coming. And if the Bisons hit one of the Chiefs' hitters, it will be fascinating to see what Strasburg does in the following half-inning.
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