Aug 8, 2015, 3:31 PM EDT
It has been exactly five weeks since Stephen Strasburg last took the mound at Nationals Park, when a strained left oblique muscle sent the right-hander back to the DL only a couple of weeks after he returned from a neck injury. Now, Strasburg returns, on the heels of a dominant rehab start at Class AAA Syracuse on Monday, hoping to pick up where he left off a month ago. If he can pitch anything like he did at that point, he could be the X factor for this team the rest of the way, bolstering a rotation that has been good but not as great as advertised.
One way or another, the Nationals need to find a way to beat the Rockies tonight, whether it’s a dominant performance from Strasburg, a productive performance at the plate against Virginia native Eddie Butler or something else that develops along the way. And then they have to hope the Mets actually lose a game for the first time in nine days.
Updates to come…
COLORADO ROCKIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 185
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, Wind 7 mph in from CF
3B Anthony Rendon
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Clint Robinson
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
CF Michael Taylor
RHP Stephen Strasburg
CF Charlie Blackmon
SS Jose Reyes
RF Carlos Gonzalez
3B Nolan Arenado
1B Ben Paulsen
2B D.J. LeMahieu
C Nick Hundley
LF Brandon Barnes
RHP Eddie Butler
HP Brian O’Nora
1B Alan Porter
2B Mark Ripperger
3B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
7:05 p.m. — And we’re underway on a gorgeous Saturday night in the District. Stephen Strasburg fires a 95-mph fastball to Charlie Blackmon for strike one.
7:19 p.m. — An impressive top of the first from Strasburg, even though it began with a double to right-center by Blackmon off a 1-2 changeup. Strasburg buckled down after that, getting Jose Reyes on a sac bunt, then getting Carlos Gonzalez to tap a dribbler in front of the plate on a nasty curveball and striking out Nolan Arenado on another nasty curveball. All told, Strasburg threw 12 pitches, 8 of them strikes, with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph. Good stuff. Scoreless after one.
7:39 p.m. — And the Nats are on the board in the bottom of the second, thanks to a big, 2-run double by Wilson Ramos. It came on a curveball, which Ramos did a great job staying back on and driving to the gap in right-center. Strasburg, meanwhile, looks really sharp so far, with three strikeouts and 16-of-22 pitches for strikes through two scoreless frames. It’s 2-0 Nats after two.
8:02 p.m. — Make it 3-0 Nats after three, thanks to a 101-mph single by Bryce Harper, a couple of walks and then a 2-out RBI single up the middle by Ian Desmond. The Nats might have plated even more runs in the inning if not for another fabulous play at third base by Nolan Arenado, who robbed Ramos of a possible double.
8:16 p.m. — The bad news: Strasburg served up a homer to the unstoppable Arenado with one out in the top of the fourth. The good news: He struck out the three other batters in the inning, including Carlos Gonzalez on a 96 mph fastball. That’s 8 K’s for Strasburg through four very impressive innings, and his ERA has now dropped below 5.00 for the first time since May 12. 3-1 Nats after four.
8:35 p.m. — I know he’s been hitting into a lot of double plays and doesn’t look close to being all the way back, but Ryan Zimmerman is still doing his share at the plate. He just smoked a double off the wall in left field to bring Harper around from first with another run in the bottom of the fifth. That’s six straight games with an RBI for Zim, who now sports an .871 OPS in 12 games since coming off the DL. 4-1 Nats through five.
8:49 p.m. — Breaking news: Stephen Strasburg is 3-for-3 tonight. Yes, he’s 3-for-3. He had been 0-for-16 this season prior to tonight. He’s now 3-for-19. How about that? Oh, he also has thrown six innings of 1-run, 3-hit, 0-walk, 10-strikeout baseball on 76 pitches. What a return for the right-hander. Still 4-1 Nats after six.
9:23 p.m. — Make it 6-1 after the Nats added some big insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, including another RBI from Zimmerman and a Harper drive off the top of the right-field wall. So Strasburg is now done for the night, with 12 strikeouts and zero walks over seven sparkling innings. Blake Treinen enters for the eighth.
9:38 p.m. — A quick eighth for Treinen, so now it’s Matt Thornton to pitch the ninth with the Nats up 6-1 and trying to cut the Mets’ lead to 1 1/2 games. Yes, that’s right: The Mets lost a baseball game tonight. I know, I can’t believe it, either.
9:44 p.m. — And that’s your ballgame. Nats win 6-1. Strasburg was brilliant. The lineup was efficient. And the Nats have trimmed the Mets’ lead to 1 1/2 games. Good night all around.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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