Strasburg Leaves Game With Bicep Tightness, Nats Win 9-3 To Avoid Sweep

The Washington Nationals broke their three-game losing streak on Sunday with a 9-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. In the post-game presser, manager Davey Johnson broke news that Stephen Strasburg was pulled after five innings and just 90 pitches due to bicep tightness that started late in the first inning. Davey said, “it seemed to get tighter on him [as the game went on]. I talked to him later on in the game, and he said it relaxed a little bit, and he felt a lot better.”

Strasburg missed the end of the 2010 and most of the 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, which is one reason for the increased concern for what seems like routine tightness. When asked about the tightness, Johnson said, “I’m not as concerned when I hear its in the bicep. That’s generally where you can have tightness that comes maybe from throwing a lot of pitches in an inning. It’s kinda borderline being a little tired.” While he seemed unconcerned, he didn’t directly answer a question from the Washington Times’ Amanda Comak about whether Strasburg would be evaluated further. When asked if he expected Strasburg to miss a start, Johnson said no. 

In the game itself, Strasburg was hit extremely hard in the first and second innings. He got out of the first inning with a 5-4-3 double play after giving up just one run, but all four batters he faced made good contact. The second inning didn’t start out well when Bryce Harper dropped a routine fly ball to left center field to the first batter. A passed ball by Jesus Flores advanced two runners into scoring position, and a single by rookie Xavier Avery scored them both. Though they were unearned runs, it looked like Strasburg might be in for another rough outing.

But after giving up those three runs in the first two innings, the Nationals pitching staff was lights out. They didn’t allow a run for the rest of the game and didn’t allow hits from the third to the eighth inning. Tom Gorzelanny was lights out for two innings, and Tyler Clippard struck out two of the three batters he faced. 

The real story of the game was an explosion of the Nationals bats. The offense scored nine or more runs for the first time this season, and just about everyone contributed in some way. Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and Stephen Strasburg all earned two hits in the contest, but Strasburg’s first career home run in the fourth inning was probably the biggest of them all as the Nats cruised to the 9-3 victory over their geographic rivals.

Some thoughts:

- The paid crowd of 41,918 is the second-largest crowd at Nationals Park this season, and you could feel it in the stands. There was thunderous applause each time a Nats hitter got a hit or when the team scored a run, and the place simply wouldn’t quiet down after Stephen Strasburg hit his first career home run until he came out for the curtain call. It’s the kind of thing you can look forward to as the Nats continue to win. Fans love a winner, and I think you could look forward to a lot more days like today in the near future.

- Danny Espinosa got a day off on Saturday, and it looks like it paid off on Sunday. He went 2-for-5 with a home run and a double. He did strike out twice, though, which still causes concern for Davey Johson. “He’s on a horrendous pace [for strikeouts],” said Davey. He has 50 strikeouts in just 40 games, which puts him on pace for about 200 strikeouts this season. That’s clearly an unacceptable number.

- Bryce Harper had a nice game, despite his atrocious fielding error in the second inning. He went 2-for-5 with a triple and a single. Harper continues to look uncomfortable in the outfield at times as he continues his on-the-job training out there, but remember, he’s just 19-years-old and has plenty of time to get better. And he will.

- Ian Desmond’s natural place in this line up is where he’s been for the last two games: fifth. He strikes out way too much and doesn’t see nearly enough pitches to be a lead off hitter, but his six home runs is good for second on the team. He has more total bases (83) than anyone on the team. Adam LaRoche is second with 80. Espinosa is third with a distant 51.

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.