Wednesday, July 28, 2010 9:37 am
By Miss Chatter
On the tenth day of Strasmas, my true love gave to me...10 Tomahawk strikeouts,9 Bullpen innings,8 Storen pitches,7 Of those strikes,6 Total Nats hits,5 Golden frames...4 Stolen bases,3 Early Nats runs,2 Throwing errors,And M. Batista starting the game.
Miguel Batista, not Strasburg, takes the mound at the top of the 1st inning in last night's 3-0 Nationals shutout of the Braves. More Photos
I considered inserting a scratching record sound after "9 bullpen innings" but figured I may as well finish out the verse. For one thing, I'm not sure how to insert audio into written word seamlessly enough to properly convey the jarring reaction a needle scraping across vinyl causes. In order to avoid keeping this goofiness up three more times, I'm going ahead and carrying on the shtick even though Stephen Strasburg didn't make his scheduled start last night. At this point it's questionable whether or not Strasburg will even toe the rubber three more starts this season. Wait, what?! Yes, now you understand the record scratching thing.
Scratched was the word of the day. The National Anthem concluded, lineup cards were delivered to the umpires, and the promotional "starting 9" took the field prior to the Nats-uniformed starting 9. I thought the woman from SAIC lingered on the mound for an unusually long time. Finally, a pitcher took the mound and rumbling began crescendoing through the packed out stadium of fans expecting to see Strasburg begin his warmup tosses. Blinking, eyes unbelieving, a single thought united those in the stands. "Who is on the mound?! What's going on?" I studied the arms, face and jersey number of the guy on the mound multiple times while my brain processed... Not Strasburg. Batista? Huh? I briefly debated fleeing my seat and husband in the stands and running up to the press box to find out what happened, but relied on Twitter instead, where I learned the beat writers were just as surprised until GM Mike Rizzo held an impromptu press conference to explain his precautionary reasons behind pulling Strasburg.
Everyone has heard by now that Strasburg was scratched due to "shoulder stiffness" minutes before his 10th start last night as the Nationals faced the Braves with rookie Jason Heyward finally in the lineup. As the PA announced Miguel Batista, a weak chorus of boos rose and crashed around the stadium. Between the 2nd and 3rd inning an announcement appeared on the scoreboard explaining. This time the boos were strong and fierce. I don't think the disappointment was meant for Batista personally, but rather seeing the unexpected after anticipation. Yet speaking of unexpected, by that point the Nationals led the Braves 3-0 and many stayed for the (blissfully short) duration to see Miss Iowa (Batista) crowned Miss Universe (winning pitcher). Miguel Batista earned player of the game after hurling five shutout innings against the Braves and striking out six. A performance worthy of a Strasburg start if you ask me. Now I'm not saying we should expect a Strasburg performance from Batista on a consistent basis, but for one night he stepped into Strasburg's unique shoes and did a mile in them without faltering.
Batista versus Heyward? Well, Batista hit Heyward with a pitch in the first inning, but struck him out and coaxed a ground out from him in the next two at bats. Chipper Jones? He didn't strike him out (darn), but a groundout and flyout sufficed. And that Teixeira guy? Not on the team anymore... (sorry, I'm giggling to myself here as I got carried away). The bullpen followed the bullpen starter and the dominance continued until the final strains of "Final Countdown" had barely faded.
Oddly enough, the Nats matched the Braves and struck out 10 times as well for a strange bit of synergy. Tommy Hanson actually put in an impressive pitching performance of his own, striking out eight Nationals in six innings. His defense let him down in a team role-reversal. In the first two innings, the Braves committed two errors, contributing to the three runs the Nationals scored. Nyjer Morgan, famous for his caught stealings in the early innings, stole 2nd after leading off the Nats' half of the first with a single. I've heard a few people say Morgan should chill out on attempting to steal in the first inning and wait until the game plays out a bit to see if stealing is necessary to improve the team's chances (put Dr. Freeze on his running game?). In this case, the run Morgan manufactured was really all the Nats needed to win the game. With the usual number two batter, Cristian Guzman, still standing in the batter's box, Morgan took off for third. Catcher McCann threw to third, but the ball skipped past Chipper Jones into the outfield, allowing Morgan to run home and score. All this before Guzman eventually struck out looking.
The fans who remained despite the surprise jammed the concourses with concession lines, a rare occurrence for Strasburg starts when most keep their fannies in their seats. Still they witnessed a great game. I hope that's consolation enough for those who traveled from Arizona, Louisiana and other far flung states intending to see Strasburg. Poor Miss Iowa! That's all I have to say. Maybe she'll go on to win Miss Universe and show 'em all!
So what happens now if I get stuck here on the tenth day of Strasmas if Strasburg's inflammation doesn't clear and he's shut down for the season? I was sure he'd make at least twelve starts! Does time stand still until he returns to an MLB pitcher's mound? Hey, does that mean I won't age until then? Maybe he tired of the whole "Strasmas" thing himself. The wait and see game begins now to see what happens next, but the Nationals will certainly not be taking any chances with their prized starter. Meanwhile, Storen is another pitcher to watch. How about that three-pitch strikeout of leadoff batter Prado last night? Niiiiice!