Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg faces his latest greatest challenge tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
That all changes tonight, though, because from the moment Strasburg begins his warm-up in the center-field bullpen at Citizens Bank Park, a full house of Phillies fans will be on his case like he's never experienced.
This could be fun.
Adding to the drama, the Phillies have activated Ryan Howard off the DL after only one rehab game at Class A last night (he went 1-for-2 with a walk). The plan had been for Howard not to return until Monday or Tuesday. Wonder why he (and the Phillies) would want him back tonight?
Check back throughout for updates...
NATIONALS at PHILLIES
Where: Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 83 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Roger Bernadina
2B Adam Kennedy
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willie Harris
P Stephen Strasburg
SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Placido Polanco
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
CF Shaen Victorino
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Domonic Brown
C Brian Schneider
P Kyle Kendrick
5:38 p.m. -- You'll notice the Phillies' lineup includes seven left-handed hitters (everyone but Polanco and Kendrick). Lefties have had far more success against Strasburg (.260 avg, .324 obp, .417 slug) than righties (.204/.242/.282) so Charlie Manuel's going to test the theory tonight. That means Jayson Werth (one of the most patient hitters in baseball) is on the bench in favor of rookie right fielder Domonic Brown. Also means our old pal Brian Schneider gets the start over Carlos Ruiz.
7:02 p.m. -- Just got back from the center-field walkway that overlooks the visitors bullpen here, and I've got to say I am really disappointed. Not a peep out of the Phillies fans toward Stephen Strasburg. Just a bunch of people taking photos of the kid with their cell phones. These guys certainly didn't live up (or down, as it were) to their reputation.
7:07 p.m. -- We are underway with a foul ball from Nyjer Morgan off Kyle Kendrick's first pitch. The skies have been darkening to the west. Hope there isn't any rain on its way in.
7:24 p.m. -- For the first time in five road starts, Strasburg is taking the mound in the bottom of the first with a lead in hand. The Nats just gave him a nice 3-0 cushion to work with, thanks to Kendrick's wildness and a clutch hit from Ivan Rodriguez. Kendrick allowed a one-out infield single to Ian Desmond, then issued three walks (the last one to Adam Kennedy with the bases loaded). Pudge followed with a two-run single to center, so just like that the Nats are up 3-0.
7:32 p.m. -- Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco: Meet Stephen Strasburg's curveball. Try to remember not to buckle your knees next time. Wow, what a first inning from the kid. Struck out Rollins on a curve. Had Polanco totally fooled with another curve before getting him to ground out on one. Then had Chase Utley out in front of a 92 mph changeup, leading to a slow roller to second. Three batters, three outs. Twelve pitches, eight strikes. Really sharp so far.
7:38 p.m. -- Great chance for the Nats to add to the lead in the second after Nyjer Morgan came within two feet of his first homer of the season. He wound up settling for a one-out triple. But then he tried to score on Desmond's comebacker and was easily tagged out at the plate by Brian Schneider. So much for tacking on to the lead. Still 3-0 as we go to the bottom of the second.
7:49 p.m. -- Strasburg was absolutely painting the outside corner in the bottom of the second, both with his fastball and his changeup. Struck out both Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez on picture-perfect changeups. Ryan Howard did lead the inning off with a single to left-center, but never advanced past first. A nice barehanded play by Desmond closed out the inning. So through two, Strasburg has allowed one hit, struck out three, thrown 19 of his 29 pitches for strikes.
8:04 p.m. -- Chalk up another "first" for Strasburg: his first career RBI. All it took was a little hustle out of the box on a bases-loaded, one-out grounder to second. By beating Jimmy Rollins' throw to first, Strasburg prevented the double play and allowed Bernadina to score the second run of the third inning. Zimmerman scored earlier on Kennedy's RBI single. So the Nats have taken a 5-0 lead as we go to the bottom of the third.
8:10 p.m. -- Six-pitch third for Strasburg, who made quick work of Schneider, Kendrick and Rollins. He's at only 35 pitches (24 strikes) through three, having allowed one hit while striking out four. Riggleman said this afternoon Strasburg can go up to 100 pitches tonight. He's at a nice, economic pace right now.
8:28 p.m. -- Polanco led off the fourth with the first really solid contact all night against Strasburg: a double off the wall in left-center. Utley and Howard brought him home with back-to-back grounders to second, and Strasburg finished off Victorino for the second time tonight, this time catching him looking at a 3-2 curveball. That's 48 pitches (32 strikes) for Strasburg through four, one run on two hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Nats lead 5-1.
8:43 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Strasburg just got pulled after wincing following a pitch to Domonic Brown in the fifth. He looked at his right arm and shook it around a little bit. After a couple seconds, Pudge went to the mound and looked toward the dugout. Jim Riggleman, Steve McCatty and trainer Lee Kuntz went out to see Strasburg, who tried to convince them to let him stay in the game but was overruled. He didn't look happy coming off the mound.
9:03 p.m. -- I've got a Strasburg/injury post up on the homepage, complete with a photo of him wincing after throwing his final pitch. Will be updating that post with any news we get. (Meanwhile, it's still 5-1 in the bottom of the sixth, with Craig Stammen pitching in relief.)
9:22 p.m. -- In the midst of all this chaos and waiting for a medical update on Strasburg, Stammen and Doug Slaten have done a bang-up job out of the bullpen. We're going to the bottom of the seventh now, still 5-1. The Phillies only have three hits to this point.
9:32 p.m. -- Really solid work from Slaten who retired five straight batters. Extra props to Ian Desmond, who made a fantastic play going deep in the hole to snag Mike Sweeney's grounder, then paused to plant his feet and fired a strike to Adam Dunn for the final out of the seventh. Still 5-1.
9:45 p.m. -- Another scoreless inning from the bullpen. Tyler Clippard gave up a two-out double to Jimmy Rollins high up on the right-field wall, but rebounded to get Polanco to ground out and end the eighth. So we head to the ninth, with the Nats still leading 5-1.
10:13 p.m. -- The ballgame is over, and the Nats have won 8-1. Because Strasburg didn't go five innings, he couldn't get the win, so the official scorer has given it to Doug Slaten, who retired all five batters he faced. It really was a well-played, well-pitched game from the Nationals' perspective. Unfortunately, that's not going to be the topic of conversation in the clubhouse. I'll provide an update when I get it, but since I don't have access to update the blog from my phone while in the clubhouse, I'll only be able to provide updates on Twitter for a little while. You can find me there @MarkZuckerman.