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Strasburg’s gutty Opening Day start

Apr 1, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

AP AP

NEW YORK — It got lost in the shuffle amid the injuries to Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper and the late-game heroics by the Nationals, but Stephen Strasburg’s Opening Day start deserves to be revisited.

Strasburg was anything but crisp in his first outing of the season, especially early on when he allowed four quick runs and put the Nationals in a hole. But by day’s end, the right-hander displayed a trait not frequently associated with him: Guts.

“You’ve got to give him credit,” center fielder Denard Span said. “He didn’t lose his composure. To me, that’s what good pitchers do. Solid pitchers, they make a mistake, but after that they shut the door down.”

Strasburg did just that. He labored through the game’s first three innings, serving up a towering, 3-run homer to Andrew Brown in the bottom of the first, then letting the Mets push another run across the plate in the bottom of the second. His pitch count at 61, he was in danger of an early and abrupt exit.

But then Strasburg made a key adjustment. Struggling with his fastball command and recognizing the Mets hitters were pouncing on his heater, he decided to use the rest of his repertoire and not save those bullets for later in the game.

“I just started to pitch,” he said. “They came out swinging and didn’t really let me settle in. I said: The heck with it. I’m just going to go out there and throw everything I’ve got.”

Strasburg’s newly developed slider — a pitch he only began throwing competitively in spring training — suddenly became a go-to weapon. Clocking in around 87 mph, the pitch could easily be confused by batters for his changeup, which comes in at the same velocity but breaks in the opposite direction, or his curveball, which is slower and breaks on more of a downward plane.

Strasburg wound up throwing several effective changeups, including one that struck out David Wright in the bottom of the fifth.

“I think it kept them honest,” he said. “That’s kind of what I wanted to do.”

After needing 61 pitches to complete his first three innings, Strasburg needed only 41 to complete his final three frames. He retired 10 New York batters in a row, struck out 10 overall and — most importantly — kept the game within reach for his teammates, who ultimately did mount several late rallies to win in extra innings.

“The good thing about Stras today was, he settled in and gave us a chance to get back in the game,” manager Matt Williams said. “That’s what kind of pitcher he is.”

Strasburg departed his third career Opening Day appearance with a 6.00 ERA and zero quality starts on the young season, but he also departed feeling good about the way he turned a potentially disastrous outing into a quality performance.

“Obviously it didn’t start out the way I wanted it to,” he said. “But I settled down and kept it close, gave the guys an opportunity to get back in the game. It was awesome to watch.”

  1. zmunchkin - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    If Strasburg’s slider continues to be as good as it was yesterday, this could be the year he blows past the expectations. Four great pitches is pretty tough for any hitter to deal with.

    • natinalsgo - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:16 AM

      Actually 5 great pitches when you consider his power sinker.

    • dtl0813 - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:08 PM

      lets not give him the cy young just yet

  2. Candide - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    This may be the game where we look back and say, “That was the day Strasburg became a real pitcher.”

    We’ve all seen him blow everyone away with his great stuff. Today we saw him realize his fastball wasn’t working, and instead of falling apart, dominating with plan B.

    If this is the latest step in his development, be afraid, NL; be very afraid.

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      Yeah it’s fantastic that he adapted so effectively… It’s hard to reshoe a horse as it gallops wildly down a steep hill!

    • dtl0813 - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:11 PM

      If he doesn’t have a fastball,he is toast.

  3. Faraz Shaikh - Apr 1, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    uh, it was the Mets. :P

    I didn’t see the game or highlights until late last night. I am still a bit depressed about Ramos news. He cannot catch a break.

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:10 AM

      Yes, it was the Mets. I’d say they’re a bit tougher than the Cubs of ’13, who ate Stras alive when he had a similar start last season… Of course, a Zim error contributed to that one, but still, I think it’s a good sign.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      The Philthies thumped Texas, the Marlins thumped the Rockies yesterday. There are not going to be any soft touches in the NL east, including the Mets. We are going to have to play our best baseball to win the NL east. I don’t think we should take any team lightly. Any win is a good win IMO.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Guys I was kidding. that’s why :P emoticon.

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        Oh!

  4. natinalsgo - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    All the hits came on his 4 seamer. No hits on the 2 seamer, slider, changeup, or curve.

    I’m going to say the Mets were coached up to be sitting on his 4 seamer. Erase that Brown HR and Strasburg leaves giving up 1 earned.

  5. 3on2out - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    I haven’t seen the play that Ramos hurt his hand on, but I have having trouble visualizing how a foul ball can do much damage to your glove hand. Can anybody help me out?

    • Doc - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      I didn’t see the replay, but the foul must have gone off the top of the glove where there is the lesser of protection.

      Still weird though.

  6. Candide - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    derail

    You know how people claim Harper will go to the Yankees the minute he gets the chance, and cite as evidence the fact that he grew up a Yankees fan in Vegas?

    There may be less there than meets the eye. The favorite MLB team in the Las Vegas area is… guess who.

    /derail

    • adcwonk - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      The favorite MLB team in the Las Vegas area is… guess who

      According to that map — it’s the Yankees!

      (The other orange that’s covering Nevada is SF Giants)

      And what the heck kinda designer makes a map where the Orioles and Nats are so close in color that you can’t tell the difference? (Or, is it the case that there is no county in America where the Nats are the favorite team? Which, btw, seems to be the case, also, with the Mets — my former (pre-2005) favorite team?)

      • adcwonk - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:13 AM

        OK, correction. If you look at a bigger version of the map — http://online.wsj.com/news/interactive/OB-ZH655-1396223942265?ref=SB10001424052702304157204579471490742024768 — and blow it up, you can just barely make out that there are Nats counties (what a terrible color design — it’s very hard to see).

        Also, the salmon that’s covering much of Utah — does that go with _any_ team listed on the right? (It can’t be the Reds, because Ohio is more pink than salmon).

        (What can I say: I’m a math & map geek)

      • zmunchkin - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        I agree adcwonk, a badly designed map. And like you said, if you zoom it, it appears that the DC area and adjacent counties are colored for the Nationals.

  7. Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Just heard Knorr on 106.7… Hilarious guy!

    He talked about Ramos and said, basically, that “it doesn’t look good.” Apparently he first saw trouble during an at bat in Jupiter last week and afterwards asked Ramos if he was OK. Ramos said his wrist felt off. Said he’s hoping for the best, but suspects the Xray missed something that will be found in bmore today.

    Ugh.

  8. Doc - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    So according to the report from Knorr, the foul tip in the Mets game just exacerbated a previous ST injury which happened a week or so ago.

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:08 AM

      It actually sounded to me like the act of swinging is what exacerbated the injury…

      Either way, the fact that it’s been an issue for a week puts all kinds of stuff on the table (like, say, connective tissue), imo.

  9. Joe Seamhead - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    That guy has the most freaking horrible luck. Sending good ju-ju his way.

    I missed out on getting tix to Friday’s home opening day game. I was a little bummed as I have only missed one home opener since the return of baseball to DC, and that was the first year, but I did go to Philly to see the actual opening day that year. So yesterday I went looking on stubhub, found 2 good tix for Saturday night’s game [which also wasn't on our partial plan]. Scored 2 seats in sec.314 for face value. Not bad! From the looks of the weather forecast Friday is looking pretty iffy. So, if they can’t get the game in on Friday do you think there will be a day-night double header on Saturday?

    • jd - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      No way Joe. They’l reschedule for later in the summer.

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        I really hope that they can get the game in on Friday, but if not I was thinking they might do the “clear the stadium between games” day/night thing. Folks often go through a lot of contortions to get tickets to Opening Day. It’s kind of hard to have the Opening Day ceremonies later. Those day/night split double headers do create traffic/parking nightmares, plus add in the cheery blossom crowds.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        From the Capital Weather Gang:
        Friday is trending to the drearier side as a frontal system stalls either through or just to the south of the area. That keeps us in a light rain to drizzly mode with cooler than normal temperatures. It doesn’t look like a washout for Nationals’ opening day, but sunny and warm conditions are unlikely. Highs may only manage the lower to middle 50s in this setup as the day is damp.ish Cloudy and showery Friday night with temperatures dipping slightly to the upper 40s to low 50s. Confidence: Low-Medium

        Fingers crossed. They’re supposed to dedicate a plaque to the Navy Yard victims and survivors…my dad is really looking forward to it, as I think it would be a great bookend for him, the other being the game we attended the day after he survived.

        I suppose any ceremonies related to that will happen at the make up game…

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        WOULD happen at the make up game…not will…hasn’t been cancelled yet! ;)

        And, the CWG phrasing (“doesn’t look like a washout”) sounds like they think the game will happen.

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        Too early to anticipate anything either way. You’ll note the forecast has a confidence level of low-medium. Given how drastically changeable our weather has been these last few weeks, we could have an outcome anywhere between 50 and pouring and 65 and sunny. In fact, since they started posting Friday the 4th on the 10 day forecasts, I’ve seen forecasts for Friday that actually included both of those alternatives.

  10. jd - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Notes from the game:

    Sam and I went to our very first ever opening day game yesterday. We sat just in front of the media room, had a good look at Chase and Mark. It was brutally cold, the wind was just cutting through us especially during the early parts of the game.

    The game was a blast. Nothing beats snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The at bat by Espi was wonderful and I must say I was resigned to a loss by then. Love Rendon. Great innings by Storen and Barrett and John Lannan hasn’t gotten any better, came in to face a lefty and walked him then gave up a bomb to Rendon.

    Can’t wait for game 2, hope Ramos isn’t out for too long.

    • sjm308 - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Sounds like you had a great time

      Congrats! And thanks for the input

  11. jd - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Also, I think what hurt Stras is that because of the cold he couldn’t get loose enough and his 4 seamer was sitting at 91, 92 instead of the normal 94 – 96.

    • ArVAFan - Apr 1, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      I wondered if he was having weather-related difficulties, given that Mark mentioned “frozen stuff” falling earlier that a.m. and temps in the 40’s at game time. Just glad he didn’t pull something in the process–and definitely glad to see him not lose his composure.

      Speaking of temperature, I was speaking to a Twins fan yesterday. They told me that although there is no roof, there is a heating system in the field, so at least the players are warmer than the outside temperature. No mention of heated seats, though!

    • thelatencn - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Don’t know if the stats would beara this out, but I have always thought that Stras (San Diego kid) and Gio (Miami) aren’t quite themselves in cold weather.

    • scbilly - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      The radar gun at Citi may have been reading a little low. The TV guys kept saying that pitches looked faster than the readout numbers, if the human eye can really tell the difference.

  12. micksback1 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Other than the home run ball, Strass had total command of his pitches. He showed maturity after giving up the HR, in the past he would have sulked, this time, he let it go and refocused, a very positive sign.

    Also, today’s the 29th anniversary of the famous Syd Finch April fools joke by SI, that yes, I fell for it

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      April Fools is my last great hope for Ramos’ status report…I put basically 0 stock in that hope, though…

    • adcwonk - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      Syd Finch!

      Yes, I fell for it, too. And, as I was a Mets fan at the time . . .

  13. NatsLady - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I’m geared up to go daily with my stats-based reports (can’t promise EVERY day, but I’m gonna try!). Won’t post the links here all the time, so as not to clutter up Mark’s blog, but here is Game 1. Pretty much the same format as last year, with a couple new wrinkles because I’ve learned a few things from my other job–number one is that every team has injuries. Appreciate any feedback, there is a comments section. ;)

    Lady and the Nats Week 1 Game 1

    • Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      I for one don’t mind you making one post a day with a link to your blog. You’ve got good stuff there and it’s nice to have a reminder to check it and an alert that there’s a new post. Given your longtime commenter and contributor status, I hope Mark wouldn’t mind either.

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Hoping that Ramos is okay. Shocked to hear this was an earlier injury. Still hoping it is minor. Bryce gets a much needed day off.

  15. Joe Seamhead - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Ghost, you gave Clip a pass on the home run pitch, and I go along with it. How did you feel about Jerry Blevins’ inning and overall first impression?

    • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      Blevins looked like he had a plane to catch. I wouldn’t judge him from that inning. 4 run lead, he seemed to just want to quickly finish it.

  16. Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Knorr’s interview with the Junkies this morning

    His story about not getting the manager’s job is hilarous!

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      Thanks, Eric. That was a nice listen.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        You’re welcome!

  17. adcwonk - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Gee, Mark, your story is completely at odds with the brilliant comment in the game thread — posted after one full inning:

    I take back everything nice I said about Strasburg in the previous post. He didn’t learn a damn thing over the winter. “Hey, let’s get three runs behind in the first inning, throw a lot of pitches, stress the bullpen and see if my guys can score four or more.” Another 8-9 season looms.

  18. tcostant - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    If anyone wants to go to opening day, the Nats just realease add’l seats on there website.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/ticketing/singlegame.jsp?c_id=was

  19. Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Looking at the game as a whole, there is so much to like, but perhaps the most encouraging thing is two shutdown innings from Storen and Barrett. If they can be nails this year and Soriano and Clip just do what they’ do, we’ll have a really formidable bullpen. Considering that our top 3 starters are poised to go 7 innings on regular basis, that is going to be huge.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      Another +1. You’re really on my wavelength today, Deuces!

      • Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        That’s good to hear. You’re a smart guy. :-)

    • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Oh, but I’m assuming that’s for all pitches…I’d be curious what percent of his pitches were FBs, but I have to think it was far lower than normal.

      Is there any way to get average velocity by pitch type?

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Sheesh…right there at the top…FA.

    • Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      That is a really cool tool. It sure seemed like it was down, but Ghost said last night he wasn’t worried. Something to keep an eye on for sure.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        Cool indeed. My gut tells me it’s nothing as, I feel like resorting to break balls is the last thing you’d want to do if injured; however, I’m pretty well out of my league here. But, I do also trust Ghost to infer these things pretty accurately.

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        I’d chalk it up to 44° and 16 mile an hour winds off Long Island sound providing extra wind chill.

        At least for now. Let’s take another look after a game with warmer weather.

    • Ghost Of Steve M - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      Down vs other starts yes but he was probably saving his stamina to go deep in the game. Still building arm strength.

  20. jonnynats14 - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Knorr: “it doesn’t look good.”

    What is it with that guy? Kidnapped, run over at the plate, foul balls. . .tough break.

    How old is Pudge?

    • Section 222 - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Way too old. Also can’t hit. Also calls too many fastballs with guys on base. :-)

    • JW - Apr 1, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Knorr said one word that’s quite worrisome. Hamate. If that’s it, the specific recovery isn’t all that long, but it can take quite a while for the power to come back.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Hamate

        I mean, seriously? That tiny little thing? Maybe that’s common, but that strikes me as randomly getting pricked by a needle in a haystack.

      • Eric - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        From that Wiki:
        -The hamate bone is the bone most commonly fractured when an amateur golfer hits the ground hard with a golf club on the downswing. The fracture is usually a hairline fracture, commonly missed on normal X-Rays. Symptoms are pain aggravated by gripping, tenderness over the hamate and symptoms of irritation of the ulnar nerve. This is characterized by numbness and weakness of the pinky finger with partial involvement of the ring finger as well, the “ulnar 1½ fingers.”
        The hook of hamate is particularly prone to fracture-related complications such as non-union due to its “tenuous” blood supply.[2]
        It is also a common injury in baseball players. Several professional baseball players have had the bone removed during the course of their careers.[3][4][5][6][7] This condition has been called “Wilson’s Wrist”.[8]

        Wilson’s wrist, eh? Unbelievable if that’s what this is.

      • JW - Apr 1, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        It’s a fairly common injury for baseball players. Zimmerman and Espinosa both had it.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 1, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      Feel good stuff there, wonk.Enjoyed it.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 1, 2014 at 5:42 PM

      He’s made it to the highest level of his profession. Good for him. We should get autographs.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 58 47 --
ATLANTA 58 49 1.0
MIAMI 53 54 6.0
NEW YORK 52 56 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 47 61 12.5
Through Wednesday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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