The Washington Nationals spotted Stephen Strasburg three fat runs before their ace threw his first pitch Friday.
It wasn’t enough. Not nearly.
The Marlins — the lowest scoring team in the majors — did a number on Strasburg, erupting for five runs in the first and sending him to the showers soon after Giancarlo Stanton walloped a two-run homer in the second in what was an 8-3 shocker.
“That first inning, I don’t think that’s how anybody drew it up,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I don’t think anybody anticipated that.”
It was the worst outing of Strasburg’s young career. The seven earned runs were the most he has allowed, and the two-inning stint equaled his briefest outing.
No team has faced Strasburg as many times as the Marlins have over the years. It was his 11th start against them. Whether that familiarity was the cause of his downfall Friday or it was a case of nothing working for him, the outcome was still the same.
After inheriting a seemingly comfortable 3-0 cushion in the first, Strasburg quickly gave it all back — and more.
He walked the bases loaded, and Marcell Ozuna made him pay, delivering a one-out triple into the cutout in center that tied the score. Derek Dietrich made it a 4-3 Marlins lead with his RBI single, and pitcher Nathan Eovaldi — hitless in his nine previous at-bats this season — drove in another run with an opposite-field hit.
Ozuna said he once faced Strasburg in Single A a couple of years ago when the pitcher was on a rehab assignment. He struck out that time.
“No chance to hit,” Ozuna said. “I’m thinking, ‘OK, I will see you later.’ ’’
Ozuna studied film of Strasburg and decided to “take it to the middle.”
The plan worked.
The Marlins didn’t let up on Strasburg in the second.
Ed Lucas drew a leadoff walk, which Stanton followed with his ninth home run, an opposite-field shot. The blast was Stanton’s first since June 29, a drought of 11 games, and only his second in his past 22 games.
Strasburg finished out the second but didn’t return for the third. Of his 66 pitches, only half were strikes. Perhaps more revealing than any of his dismal numbers: His jersey was darkened by sweat.
Strasburg had given up seven runs in a game once before — at Marlins Park last August — but only five were earned.
The only other time Strasburg managed to complete only two innings was a May 31 game against the Braves in which he sustained an injury that put him on the disabled list. He had never been knocked out so quickly for poor performance.
Eovaldi, whose first inning was almost as bad as Strasburg’s, emerged with the win despite his shaky start. The right-hander gave up a bases-loaded double to Adam LaRoche in the first after walking two of the first three batters, and Jayson Werth drove in another run on a ground ball.
“That first inning, I almost felt like I let that first at-bat get to me, with walking [Denard Span],” Eovaldi said. “I try to take pride in not walking guys, especially leadoff walks. I just didn’t really regroup after that.”
But Eovaldi, perhaps emboldened by the Marlins’ five-run outburst in the first, became a different pitcher after that, allowing only one hit — an infield single off his pitching hand — over the next five innings.
“The guys picked me right back up after that [first inning],” Eovaldi said. “It was huge.”
Eovaldi, after spending the first part of the season on the disabled list, has gone 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his five starts since joining the rotation.
It was a good thing for the Marlins that they scored as early as they did. Because after Strasburg was gone, their bats turned silent. Long reliever Ross Ohlendorf took over and delivered four scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.
The Marlins added another run in the seventh, though, on a two-out double by Adeiny Hechavarria off Fernando Abad. Hechavarria extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games with a single in the first.
The Marlins also continued to win in their home park. Since May 31, they have now won 13 of their past 19 games at Marlins Park.