Nats (36-46); Mets (45-36)
Phenom Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the Nats before another sellout crowd.
But Strasburg's day was thrown off from the start with a 37-pitch inning in which he allowed a double and an uncharacteristic three walks.
Fortunately the Nats were able to salvage the game with a ninth-inning rally.
His second trouble spot came in the third where he threw 26 pitches - though he only allowed three groundball hits, which, unfortunately for him, produced one run.
However, Strasburg looked more like himself in the other three innings, where it was three-up, three-down.
So Strasburg left the game after five innings having allowed just 4 hits, 2 runs and striking out 5 while walking 3.
Those two trouble innings were some of the adversity the Nats were hoping their young star would encounter in the minors and never did. Strasburg seems to rattle a little with runners on the corners, not so much with poor pitches, but the seemingly inevitable soft hit that brings the runner home.
The devastating curveball of his debut has seemed to be lacking here as of late. With a fastball like his, you can get most batters out with it — but there are some that require that off-speed pitch.
A hitter I'd like to pull out for example saw more pitches from Strasburg than any other hitter in the Mets lineup today: rookie catcher Josh Thole.
Strasburg threw 14 pitches to Thole in two at-bats. The first AB was a 10-pitch affair that led to a walk. Nothing but fastballs and changeups thrown. All 90 mph and above. Thole was ahead of the change-up and the fastball he was behind on.
The second at-bat, was a pair of curveballs and a pair of fastballs. He hit a 2-1 fastball on the ground up the middle. The two balls - both inside curveballs.
I believe if Thole had seen the curveball for strikes, that would've been the end of him. Most major-league hitters who sit on a fastball can hit it, no matter how fast it is. Thole can hit the fastball: he's batting .556 in five games this year and is a .355 lifetime MLB hitter in 22 career games. Does that small sample size make him next Mike Piazza? Probably not. But, it's clear that the fastball alone isn't going to get him out.
The Nats could've used a little more help from Strasburg tonight, as Tyler Clippard came on for an ill-fated 8th inning. The normally reliable setup man faced 7 batters in 2/3 of an inning where he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits with a walk and no strikeouts. Doug Slaten managed to get the Nats out of the inning.
That followed a fantastic 6th and 7th innings by the Nats' other 2009 first-rounder, Drew Storen, who struck out three of the six batters he faced.
At least Matt Capps was able to survive the 9th unscathed after inheriting two base runners to start off and earned the win when the Nats offense jumped all over Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez.
So the offense showed up again tonight late, but this time the rally wasn't killed by a dumb play.
After having a rally stall out after just one run in the bottom of the eighth when the Nats stranded runners on first and second, the ninth inning was a hit parade.
The top of the order produced, with K-Rod only able to get a single out — which was a ground out by Nyjer Morgan that moved Cristian Guzman to second. Willie Harris singled, Ryan Zimmerman walked and then Adam Dunn came within inches of a walkoff grandslam, but the ball jumped back into play and left runners on second and third which led to Josh Willingham getting an intentional pass — K-Rod's third walk of the inning.
Then Pudge Rodriguez showed his greatness going the other way to right to score Zim easily.
The offensive display was impressive considering the Nats' woes as of late.
It was only the 9th time since the beginning of June that the Nats scored five or more runs in a game.