Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bringing the heat: Harper's slam fuels Strasburg

 Stephen Strasburg and Adam Conley were making quick work of hitters on Tuesday until the Nationals erupted for a record-setting seventh inning, smashing four home runs, punctuated by Jayson Werth's career No. 200 blast and Bryce Harper's two-out grand slam.
Werth and Wilson Ramos went back-to-back on solo shots off Conley with one out in the seventh, and Harper and Ryan Zimmerman connected off Chris Narveson in the Nationals' 7-0 win over Miami at Marlins Park. It marked the first time Washington had belted four dingers in an inning, and the first time the Marlins surrendered that many.
"That just shows what we're capable of doing," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I've always said once we can get everybody swinging the way they're capable of swinging, that we're capable of a lot of those innings, which goes to show us that we should never be out of a ballgame if we're capable of striking like that."
The Nationals' power-surge shocked the Marlins, as they scored seven times in what had been a scoreless pitchers' duel. Conley, brilliant through six innings, had struck out eight batters. He was victimized by one-out shots from Werth and Ramos. Keeping the inning alive was Strasburg's two-out single, his second hit of the night.
"He just seemed to run out of gas a little bit," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of his young lefty. "That's something we've got to watch. We've got to find out where that spot is. I thought he was really good tonight."
Strasburg was brilliant on the mound, as well, striking out 10 batters in eight innings, as he improved to 11-7 all-time against the Marlins.
Fab four: The Nationals ripped four homers in the seventh inning, the first time in franchise history (2005-present) they have homered four times in a single frame.
Werth got things started with a solo home run with one out, launching a 3-2 fastball 435 feet for his second homer of the year and 200th of his career. Ramos homered on the very next pitch, driving a slider to left-center field. Harper continued his stellar start to the season with his second career grand slam -- and fifth homer in the past six games -- followed by a solo dinger from Zimmerman.
The last MLB team to hit back-to-back homers twice in an inning was Milwaukee vs. Arizona on Aug. 11, 2010, via the Elias Sports Bureau. More >
Conley's learning curve: His final line didn't tell the whole story of just how effective Conley was, at least until the Nationals broke things open with their homerfest in the seventh. In the first inning, the lefty stranded Anthony Rendon at third by striking out Harper and getting Zimmerman to bounce to second. Conley racked up eight strikeouts and was at 82 pitches through six innings. No Marlins starter had gone deeper than 6 1/3 innings, until Conley went 6 2/3 innings, but the lefty was unable to close out the frame. He had his string of 12 straight scoreless innings snapped on Werth's homer. And by surrendering the single to Strasburg that extended the seventh, he ended up having four runs charged to him.
"This guy, he's pitching like your ace," Mattingly said. "He's attacking on the inside. He came after these guys like he had no fear of them. He got the ball in there. You could see how that set up his pitches later in the game. Then, they get him there in the seventh. But everything he did early in the game really sets up the rest of his game for him." More >
Dominant Strasburg: Strasburg is off to a stellar start for the Nationals this season, and he may have delivered his best outing to date Tuesday. He held the Marlins to three hits, two of which did not leave the infield, through eight shutout innings while striking out 10, the 22nd double-digit strikeout game of his career.
In his last 16 starts dating back to last season, Strasburg owns a 1.65 ERA and 0.80 WHIP with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 131-to-19.
"He's coming into his own. It's incredible," Harper said. "You see what he did in college. He had so much pressure going through the Minors, coming up and everything, got hurt, trying to get back into it with his ankle and things like that. Then the second half last year, [he] was absolutely ridiculous. Now, he's putting up video game numbers again." More >
Stanton robs Harper: Through six innings, Conley was pretty much in command. The lefty struck out Harper in the first on an 83 mph changeup. In the fourth, Conley again got Harper, this time striking out the reigning NL MVP Award winner on a 94 mph fastball. With one out in the sixth, Harper was in attack mode early. He turned on Conley's 92 mph fastball and drove a sinking liner to right field, but Giancarlo Stanton got a good jump and made a diving catch, robbing Harper of extra bases. According to Statcast™, the exit velocity on Harper's liner was 85 mph, and the ball projected 292 feet from home plate, which meant Stanton needed to cover ground in a hurry.
"That's probably the best I've seen him. I haven't seen him too much. But to me, he had a lot of stuff working tonight. His changeup was really good. He uses all of his pitches. He's not a guy just out there throwing. He's using all of his weapons." -- Mattingly on Strasburg
"It's fun for us. We have a better seat than most. He's continuing on what he did last year. Playing every day, and the way he prepares, hopefully he can do it all year. It's fun to watch. Obviously, he's a big reason why we're playing the way we are right now." -- Zimmerman on Harper
With the game out of hand in the top of the ninth, the Nationals reviewed a close play at first on Michael Taylor's grounder to short. Miguel Rojas made the long throw, and Taylor thought he was safe. But after a review of 1 minute, 9 seconds, the call was confirmed, and Taylor was out.
First-base umpire Jerry Layne left the game limping in the second inning after he appeared to tweak something while dodging a leadoff double down the right-field line by Daniel Murphy. The rest of the game went on with three umpires, forcing Hunter Wendelstedt and Scott Barry to man the field by themselves. More >
Ichiro Suzuki's infield single (initially ruled an error on Rendon) was career hit No. 2,940 of his career, leaving him three shy of Frank Robinson for 33rd place all-time.
Nationals: Joe Ross takes the mound after two dominant starts to begin the 2016 season. Ross owns a 0.60 ERA with 10 strikeouts so far this season, including a victory over Miami at Nationals Park in his first start of the year after allowing one run over seven innings.
Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen makes his third start at 7:10 p.m. ET Wednesday, and the lefty seeks his first win as a Marlin. The former Orioles lefty had a hard-luck no-decision in his last outing, when he gave up two runs in 6 1/3 innings against Atlanta. His ERA is 5.56.

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