Can Nats reverse fortunes vs. teams over .500?
ATLANTA — Stephen Strasburg exacted some revenge for Bryce Harper's recent plunkings. Then the Nationals ace lost all semblance of command and wound up getting himself and his manager ejected.
One night after Harper was hit by a Braves pitcher for the third time in the last three games between the two clubs, Strasburg fired a 97 mph fastball into Justin Upton's left hip in the bottom of the first inning. Upton quietly took his base, and plate umpire Marvin Hudson issued warnings to both dugouts, which should have ended the whole affair.
Except one inning later, Strasburg suddenly couldn't find the strike zone. He walked Jordan Schafer on four pitches, then uncorked three consecutive wild pitches to Andrelton Simmons, the last two sailing well behind the Atlanta shortstop's back and allowing Schafer to score.
Hudson had no choice at that point but to eject Strasburg, as well as Johnson. (By rule, once warnings are issued, a manager is automatically ejected if his pitcher gets tossed.)
Strasburg, who was still running to cover the plate on the final wild pitch as Hudson was giving him the heave-ho, stopped dead in his tracks and offered a look of bewilderment to the umpire. He slowly walked off the field as Johnson emerged from the dugout to talk to Hudson, who informed the 70-year-old manager he was being ejected as well.
At 1-plus inning, this wound up as the shortest start of Strasburg's career, and certainly the strangest. After throwing 14-of-20 pitches for strikes in the bottom of the first, he threw seven consecutive balls in the bottom of the second.