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Posted at 12:42 PM ET, 03/04/2012

Nationals-Astros spring training live blog: Stephen Strasburg’s first start


(Julio Cortez - AP)

4:08, END: It’s over. 10-2, Astros win. Eight of the runs came with Tom Gorzelanny on the mound.

4:01, BOT 9: Here’s a bright note in a largely dismal game: Drew Storen threw a perfect inning, striking out two while using only 11 pitches, eight of them strikes. Still, it’s 10-2.

3:50, BOT 8: Bryce Harper struck out looking against reliever Fernando Rodriguez, frozen by a breaking ball. He’s now 2 for 5 this spring.

3:37, TOP 8: Just got back from talking to Strasburg about his start. He said “it was very easy for me” to get through 44 pitches, and he felt he could have easily pitched longer. He also said he struggled with some command, just typical touch-and-feel stuff that comes with the first day of spring. But, he felt assured that when the times comes, “I’ll be able to let it eat.”

Meanwhile, the Nats are now losing 10-2. Old friend Brian Bixler ripped a line drive to right field off tyler Clippard. Bryce Harper made a great effort diving into the corner to make the catch. He may have been able to hold Bixler to a double had he played it more conservatively, but instead Bixler ran to third for a triple. He came hom on a sacrifice fly, which Corey Brown botched in left by holding on to the ball.

3:13, END 6: Bryce Harper led off the sixth with an infield single up the middle, using his speed to beat a weak throw from the Astros shortstop. Harper failed to score, though, and it’s still 9-1.

I spoke to Chris Snyder, the Astros catcher who hit a homer off Strasburg. He said his fastball had a lot of movement, and “he had a lot of stuff” for a pitcher making his first spring start. Strasburg threw him one curveball, which “buckcled” him, he said. Good news.

2:55, BOT 5: Ryan Mattheus cleaned house in the fifith. Two strikeouts and a routine grounder to short, handled smootly by Rendon. Still 9-1.

2:48, TOP 5: The Nats squandered a one-out, runners-on-corners rally when Henry Sosa struck out both Brett Carroll and Ian Desmond. Tough opener for Ian Desmond, who went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and two errors. The Nats made a fleet of changes, most notably Bryce Harper in right and Anthony Rendon at shortstop. Ryan Mattheus just struck out Snyder for the first out.

2:28, TOP 4: Tom Gorzelanny’s disastrous day is over. In the fourth, Gorzelanny allowed a bases-loaded walk, a bases-loaded wild pitch and a three-run home run. The homer, by Fernando Martinez, was the definition of “wind-aided,” but still, it was an ugly day for Gorzelanny. He got three outs and gave up seven runs, including two homers. Ryan Mattheus came on, and Ian Desmond made his second error of the day, this one throwing after booting a groundball in the third. It’s 9-1, Astros.

2:12, TOP 4: Just got word from a scout: Strasburg threw his fastball mostly between 92 and 96 miles per hour today. That’s lower than usual, to be sure, but given that it’s his first start and he is trying to pitch with more precision while saving power, that velocity does not seem out of line.

2:07, END 3: Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond led off with outs, but Ryan Zimmerman kept the inning going with a sharp single to right-center. Michael Morse reached on a chopper that died between the mound and third base. Jayson Werth ended the inning with a weak pop to second base. 4-1, Astros.

2:03, MID 3: The game got away from the Nats a little after Gorzelanny came in. He hit the first batter he faced, then gave up a three-run homer to JD Martinez on an 0-2 pitch. That closed the book on Strasburg’s line: 2.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 44 pitches, 26 srikes. He looked strong, if a touch inconsistent. Astros lead, 4-1.

1:49, TOP 3: The Nationals had to pull Stephen Strasburg mid-inning after he ran into trouble. Strasburg led off the inning with a filthy pitch sequence, throwing a high, 1-2 fastball to Chris Johnson and then buckling him with a 2-2 curvebal for strike three. But Chris Snyder drilled a 3-1 fastball down the left field line for a solo homer. Jordan Schafer followed with a double just past first baseman Mark DeRosa. Strasburg threw a wild pitch, but still struck out Marvin Gonzalez swinging at a curveball. By that point, though, his pitch count had climbed to 44 and the Nats yanked him. Strasburg struck out three in 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits and no walks. He threw 44 pitches, 26 strikes. 1-1, Tom Gorzelanny now pitching.

1:38, END 2: The Nats scored the games’s first run on Jason Michaels’ RBI bloop single. Michael Morse led off with a walk. Jayson Werth struck out swinging against J.A. Happ. Mark DeRosa singled through the left side, and Michaels singled with two outs. Stephen Strasburg is back out for the third inning, having thrown 28 of his 45 alotted pitches.

1:22, MID 2: Sorry for the delay here; I went down behind the plate for a better view. In the first inning, Strasburg cruised using almost all fastballs. He had a little command issue, leaving some heaters up in the zone and throwing a couple in the dirt. Some of his fastballs seemed to have an action close to a cutter, which would be new. His first offspeed pitch came when he threw a 3-2 changeup to Brian Bogusevic, who swung over it for strike one.

In the second, Strasburg threw his first curve to J.D. Martinez. Fernando Martinez doubled to left with one out, but Strasburg got out of it by getting Matt Downs to hit a soft flare to second and a fly to left by Brett Wallace.

Strasburg has thrown 14 pitches in each inning, with 17 of his 28 pitches for strikes. Offensively, Danny Espinosa hit a one-out single against J.A. Happ, but Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

PREGAME: Stephen Strasburg has started warming up for his first start of this spring, also the opener at Space Coast Stadium. The rain has held off, and the clouds have ceded to sunshine. It’s still awfully windy, blowing out to left field. The game is on both radio television, 106.7 The Fan and live on MASN. We’ll also have some updates here. First pitch at 1 p.m.

By  |  12:42 PM ET, 03/04/2012

 
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