Knowing that Stephen Strasburg was likely pitching at Nationals Park for the final time this season, the adoring home crowd gave him a rousing ovation when the public address announcer bellowed out his name Friday night during pregame introductions. But Strasburg gave fans almost no reason to cheer him after that.
For the second time in less than two weeks, the Marlins did a big-time number on the Nationals’ young ace, sending him to the showers after just three innings before pulling out an insanely wild 9-7 victory in 10 innings.
“Maybe we’re not trying to do too much,” manager Ozzie Guillen replied when asked why the Marlins’ hitters have been doing a better job against Strasburg the past two games. “We’re not chasing bad pitches.”
In order to ensure the pitcher’s future health for years to come, the Nationals have made the bold decision to shut down Strasburg, more than likely after his upcoming start — never mind that the Nationals are on the cusp of putting a Washington team in the postseason for the first time since 1933.
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But Strasburg, who had dominated the Marlins for so long, holding them scoreless for 27 consecutive innings at one point earlier this season, was crushed by them once again. He gave up home runs to Giancarlo Stanton and rookie Rob Brantly, issued three walks and was yanked for a pinch-hitter when the Nationals came up in the bottom of the third. Combined with this previous start against the Marlins, Strasburg was roughed up to the tune of 12 runs — 10 of them earned — on 15 hits in only eight total innings.
Why, he was even outpitched by a hurler two years his junior, the Marlins’ Jacob Turner. Turner, who was making his third start for the Marlins since being acquired (along with Brantly) in the Omar Infante/Anibal Sanchez trade with the Detroit Tigers, was splendid against the team with the best record in the majors.
Turner gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the first but not much else. Alas, after Turner had completed six innings while throwing 81 pitches, Guillen replaced him with Carlos Zambrano. Since Turner had not pitched in nine days, Guillen said he was under orders from the Marlins’ front office to limit Turner to 80 to 85 pitches.
“We have to take care of him,” said Guillen, who noted that Turner’s fastball velocity had declined of late. “This kid, it’s the first time pitching in September, and whatever [the front office] says, I go by. That’s one of the reasons we went to a six-man rotation, too. He was 94, 95 [mph]. Now he’s 92, 91.”
With Zambrano on the mound, the Nationals promptly erupted. Zambrano gave up hits to the only three batters he faced, resulting in Guillen going back to his pen to bring out Ryan Webb. Before the inning was over, the Marlins had used three relievers as the Nationals trimmed their deficit to 6-5. Michael Morse homered off rookie A.J. Ramos in the eighth to tie the score.
With Tyler Clippard pitching for the Nationals in the 10th, Bryan Petersen reached on a one-out, broken-bat single to right, followed by Justin Ruggiano’s single past diving shortstop Ian Desmond.
With runners at the corners, Jose Reyes sliced a sinking liner to left-center. Bryce Harper made a diving attempt to make the catch but failed to put a glove on the ball, which rolled to the warning track. Two runs scored as Reyes raced into third with his second triple of the night. Reyes ended up scoring on Carlos Lee’s sacrifice fly.
The Nationals fought back against Marlins closer Steve Cishek, but he struck out pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth to end the game.