It was just another day at the office for the Washington Nationals opening day starter Stephen Strasburg. Against a travelling squad of Houston Astros — and these days it’s tough enough to tell which are the regulars and which are the prospects for Bo Porter’s Astros — Strasburg breezed through 5 1/3 innings and 93 pitches, scattering five hits, among them former teammate Rick Ankiel’s solo home run. while walking one and striking out eight, including five in a row at one point.
According to reports, Strasburg’s fastball was in the 94-98 MPH range, sitting consistently at 95-96.
Strasburg found his only real trouble right off the bat in the first inning. Houston outfielder Trevor Crowe hit Strasburg’s first pitch into center for a single. Brett Wallace then singled to left on the very next pitch. Strasburg got Carlos Pena to ground out to second, with both runners moving up a base. Strasburg bore down, though, striking out Fernando Martinez and Ankiel to end the frame, leaving the runners stranded at second and third.
Int he second, the free swinging Astros grounded out twice on two pitches before Jacob Elmore reached on the third pitch of the inning on an infield single. Strasburg then struck out the opposite pitcher, Lucas Harrell, on three pitches to end the inning.
Strasburg then mowed through the top of the Astros order in the top of the third, with Crowe, Wallace and Pena all striking out on three pitches. Strasburg struck out pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman to start off the fourth before Ankiel reached the Nats ace for his second homer of the spring, on a 2-1 pitch. Strasburg recovered to coax ground balls from Carlos Corporan and Marwin Gonzalez, each swinging at the first pitch they saw from the lanky right-hander.
Strasburg got a ground out and another three-pitch strikeout in the fifth before Crowe reached him for a double to deep center field. Unfortunately for Crowe, he was gunned out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, apparently forgetting the Little League rule about not making the third out of the inning at third base.
Strasburg became the first Nats’ starter to pitch into the sixth inning this spring, retiring Wallace with a fly out to left. He then walked Pena on four straight balls, and that’s when manager Davey Johnson came out with the hook.
Craig Stammen came on to get Grossman to ground out and Ankiel to K to end the sixth inning.