Potentially primed for the longest outing of his career, Strasburg takes on fellow ace Johnny Cueto and the Reds in Sunday's finale of a wild series between reigning division champions.
The innings and pitch limits are supposedly off the 24-year-old Strasburg (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who was shut down in early September and had to watch as Washington lost its NL division series to St. Louis in five games. Cueto also had a bad playoff experience, sitting out the division series except for eight pitches in Game 1 before injuring a side muscle, and the Reds would blow a two-game lead to San Francisco.
While Cueto came back to throw seven strong innings on opening day, Strasburg did the same but was removed after 80 pitches. Cueto threw 105 - a total Strasburg has been allowed to reach just five times in 46 major-league starts.
"If it wasn't opening day and the first start of the year, it would have been a different story," Strasburg said when asked if he could have pitched longer, reiterating the reason manager Davey Johnson gave for pulling him.
The right-hander, who has never gone past seven innings, limited Miami to three hits and did not walk a batter in the 2-0 victory. Strasburg is known as a strikeout pitcher but had only three Monday and may purposely be quieting that reputation, pitching more to contact to go deeper into games.
"If he wants to be the workhorse that he is, he's going to have to pitch more games like this," shortstop Ian Desmond said.
Desmond helped even this series at one game apiece Saturday with a homer in the 11th inning that gave Washington a 7-6 victory. It was the first RBI of the season for Desmond, who made two errors earlier in the game which led to Cincinnati runs.
Harper also had a homer, catcher Wilson Ramos hit two and the Nationals (4-1) totaled five. The Reds (3-2) went deep six times in a 15-0 win Friday.
"It's been two crazy games," said Washington outfielder Jayson Werth , who was 3 for 5 with a home run Saturday.
Harper, who homered twice during Strasburg's outing, has four multihit efforts in five games. The 20-year-old center fielder's five RBIs lead the team, as does his .381 average among players with at least 10 at-bats.
He's never faced Cueto (0-0, 1.29), a 19-game winner last season. The right-hander allowed a run and three hits with nine strikeouts in a 3-1, 13-inning loss to the Angels on Monday.
Cueto did not face the Nationals in 2012 but has been solid in his last three starts against them, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA.
Strasburg won his only outing versus Cincinnati during his 2010 rookie season.
"He's a good one," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website. "There are other guys you'd pick before him to face."
Jay Bruce singled twice in that matchup with Strasburg and has four hits in this series, but he remains homerless after hitting 34 last season.
"I feel fine. It's early," Bruce said.
Shin-Soo Choo homered for the third straight game Saturday and was hit by a pitch for the fourth time. Choo shares the team lead for home runs with Todd Frazier , who is 9 for 13 with three homers and seven RBIs over the last three games.
Five of these teams' last 10 meetings have gone to extra innings.
|March 22, 2013||Christian Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm tendon|
|April 02, 2013||Ryan Ludwick||Day-to-Day||Torn cartilage in right shoulder|
|April 02, 2013||Ryan Ludwick||15-Day DL||Torn cartilage in right shoulder|
|March 22, 2013||Nick Masset||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg was ready for the challenge of facing Johnny Cueto . He wasn't expecting to finish second, though.
Cueto outlasted Strasburg in a highly anticipated matchup of young aces and Jay Bruce drove in three runs as the Cincinnati Reds wrapped up an impressive opening week homestand with a 6-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
"I think I learned a lot out there," Strasburg said. "You want to be in that situation and go deep in the ballgame."
Cueto needed 108 pitches to get through six innings, allowing seven hits and three runs. He walked three and struck out six. Aroldis Chapman allowed one hit and had two strikeouts in the ninth for his second save.
Strasburg (1-1) allowed nine hits and six runs with four walks and five strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings. He threw 114 pitches, 73 for strikes. Strasburg allowed nine hits one other time, on June 23, 2010, his rookie season, the Kansas City Royals had nine hits off him but only one run. The Reds parlayed their nine hits into six runs.
In the first inning alone the Reds had more hits than Strasburg allowed in seven innings to the Miami Marlins on opening day.
Xavier Paul reached first base on an infield single. Joey Votto walked. Brandon Phillips loaded the bases with an infield hit. Jay Bruce double to score two runs. Phillips scored on Todd Frazier 's groundout.
"Something was going on when I was in the stretch. They seemed to take better swings," Strasburg said. "I have to look at the video and see what I'm doing out there. Some days you're going to give up a lot of singles. They came up with some clutch hits. You have to tip your cap and keep on going."
Kurt Suzuki answered the Reds with a three-run home run off Cueto in the second inning to get the Nationals and Strasburg back in the game. Suzuki also hit two doubles in his four trips to the plate.
"Our catchers are hitting the heck out of the ball," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. Catcher Wilson Ramos hit two home runs in Washington's extra inning win over the Reds Saturday.
Both pitchers settled in. The score was 3-all when Strasburg, who had thrown 92 pitches came to bat with Danny Espinosa on second base and two outs.
"He (Strasburg) is our horse," Johnson said. "Especially with the extra inning game yesterday, we used a lot of guys. We needed six out of him. He was throwing free and easy, plus he's a pretty good hitter. Stras threw the ball all right but didn't hit his spots when he needed to."
Derrick Robinson singled to lead off the decisive sixth against Strasburg. Shin-Soo Choo singled Robinson to third on a hit-and-run play.
The Nationals played the infield halfway.
Paul hit a slow grounder to Espinosa at second base. He elected to come home rather than try to turn a double play. Robinson beat the throw easily.
"It was the decision I made," Espinosa said. "The way I felt was - a slow roller, if we're going to play halfway right there was to try to cut that run. Robinson is too fast for that. If it's a hard hit groundball, I'm going to turn two. If Robinson takes off, I throw home. It was my misunderstanding of why we were playing halfway."
The play set up two Reds' insurance runs.
"You shorten up a little bit because Paul can run pretty good," Johnson said. "If it's hit hard you turn two and just give them one run. It cost us."
Phillips drove in the final two runs with a single.
Bruce, Choo, Paul and Phillips each had two hits to back Cueto (1-0) and help the Reds win the rubber match of their three-game series with Washington.
Washington managed just three doubles after the second inning.
Johnson expects Adam LaRoche to be available Tuesday when Washington hosts the Chicago White Sox.
NOTES: The Reds begin their first road trip of the season Monday with three games in St. Louis, where they've won just three and split two of their last 27 series, starting in 2003. ... Washington returns home after a brief three-game road trip to open a six-game homestand, starting Monday with the first of three interleague games against the White Sox. ... Zimmerman's third-inning error was the 12th committed by a Reds opponents in the first six games of the season. The Reds have been charged with just two.