While most of DC was at the Verizon Center (or camping out in front of their television sets) watching game three of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Nationals fans turned up at ballpark for Stephen Strasburg’s 2012 home debut against the Houston Astros. The park wasn’t packed but that didn’t stop Strasburg from continuing to prove his worth as a young, reliable baseball talent.
The box score shows a few hits here and there from the Houston Astros’ offense (9 in total, 6 off Strasburg) but that doesn’t change the fact that Strasburg is the team’s ace for a reason. Strasburg is an obvious all-around athlete and his impact on the club goes beyond consistent pitching.When a play needs to be made in the field, Strasburg makes that play. Add his nasty curve ball and the guy’s got enough to keep the opposition in-check.
Davey Johnson’s lineup also came to play. They racked up thirteen hits off righty Kyle Weiland and the Houston bullpen.
Aggressive base running after a one-out double in the third helped get the Nats on the scoreboard early. Strasburg grounded out to leadoff the third but Ian Desmond followed with a double to left field. Utility man Steve Lombardozzi (who went 4-for-5, which is a career high) proceeded to execute a perfectly positioned bunt down the third base line, bringing Chris John off the bag just enough to give Desmond the room to round third. A quick toss from Astros starting pitcher Kyle Weiland past first base to catch Lambardozzi failed, though, allowing Desmond to reach and score the night’s first run. Wilson Ramos hit his first home run of the season in fourth inning putting the Nats up 2-0; a lead they kept until the sixth inning.
Strasburg found himself in a jam during the sixth inning. The bases were loaded and no one was out. That’s when the crowd of 16,245 at Nats Park got to see just how spectacular centerfielder Rick Ankiel’s veteran pitching arm is. He nailed the target set-up by Ramos at home plate from nearly 300 feet away to hold Houston’s leadoff man, Jordan Schafer, at third.
It looked like the Nats could get out of the jam but Strasburg gave up back-to-back singles before issuing his only walk of the day to J.D. Martinez. The Nats couldn’t stop the bleeding – albeit brief — and Johnson (2-for-4) served up a two-out, two-RBI rally to tie up the game at two runs a piece.
Anikel answered back in the bottom of the inning by roping a one-out single to right field. Weiland continued to issue back-to-back walks to Desmond and pinch hitter Roger Bernadina leaving the bases loaded with two outs for Lombardozzi. The kid came to play too. Lombardozzi knocked a bloop single over the heads of the left infield to give the Nats a two-run lead.
Ryan Zimmerman (2-for-5), who was batting .179 to start the evening, came through as well with a two-RBI single. That gave Washington an extra cushion in the 6-3 victory.
Sean Burnett, Ryan Mattheus, and Henry Rodriguez put in the final work from the mound for the Nats. Rodriguez earned his second save of the season. Strasburg earned his second win.