Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Tonight’s game was a total clunker, as Stephen Strasburg allowed six runs in four innings and Craig Stammen allowed five more the next inning as the Washington Nationals (8-6) were blown out by the Miami Marlins (6-9), 11-2.
Strasburg (L, 1-2) looked bad right from the starting gun. He allowed four hits and three runs in the first inning, as Giancarlo Stanton delivered the damage with a three-run home run. Stanton is now 9-for-26 career against Strasburg, and a full third of those hits are home runs.
His struggles continued in the second, as he gave up three more runs on three hits and two walks. He settled down in the third and fourth, only allowing one baserunner in each, but it was far too late.
With his third mediocre start in four appearances this season, Strasburg now has a 6.00 ERA. Obviously it’s early and this is a small sample, but this start is far from what was expected of him, especially considering that many pundits pegged him as an NL Cy Young contender. He still can be, but he’ll need to gather himself a bit first.
Additionally, with a 5.91 ERA from Tanner Roark, 5.27 from Jordan Zimmermann, and 4.76 from Taylor Jordan, the Nats have a 5.06 rotation ERA, third worst in baseball. Of course, no one would ever think the Nats have baseball’s third worst rotation, so consider this slow start just a blip on the radar. Nothing apart from injury is worth worrying about in mid-April.
Stammen replaced Strasburg in the fifth, but fared even worse against the Fish. He gave up five runs on six hits and a walk in his inning of work, turning Miami’s considerable lead into a comically large advantage.
All the while, the Nats’ bats were frustratingly limp. Anthony Rendon led the game off with a single, but Tom Koehler held the Nats hitless for the next seven innings. Koehler was far from impressive; he walked five Nats and only struck out three, but did an excellent job of inducing outs on balls in play, and extinguished what faint hopes there may have been of a Nats comeback after the first two innings.
The tide turned a bit in the Nats’ favor at the end of the game, though that was little consolation. Jerry Blevins and Tyler Clippard each threw a perfect inning of relief, while Rafael Soriano allowed just one hit in his scoreless inning. A Bryce Harper single in the eighth was the Nats’ first hit since Rendon in the first, and he would score, with the help of an error, on Steven Souza Jr.’s first career hit later in the inning. Zach Walters hit his first career home run to lead off the ninth, and Nate McLouth singled to allow the Nats to finish with a less shameful five hits for the night.
The Nats have their work cut out for them in the rubber match tomorrow, as Roark (1-0, 5.91) takes on Jose Fernandez (2-1, 3.78).
With his single, Harper now has an eight-game hitting streak. For all that was made of his slow start, he is now hitting .340/.400/.500, and with only one home run, his power clearly isn’t all the way back yet. He’s still great.
During the fourth inning, Koehler threw up and in on Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond. Desmond yelled at him to “throw the ball over the plate,” leading to him exchanging words with Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The benches cleared, but no actual confrontation broke out. One guesses Nyjer Morgan wouldn’t have responded so levelheadedly.