Strasburg gets the win - and hits a HR


Strasburg gets the win - and hits a HR

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg took a swing and looked in amazement as the baseball carried over the left-field wall. If Strasburg's first major league homer came as a surprise, his performance on the mound did not. With Strasburg leading the way, the Washington Nationals beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 Sunday to avert a three-game sweep. In addition to his 2-for-2 performance at the plate, Strasburg (4-1) struck out eight in five innings before being lifted by manager Davey Johnson, who said the pitcher mentioned tightness in his biceps. "I don't care who it was, if I find out they have tightness, they're out," Johnson said. "I talked to him later in the game. He said it relaxed a bit and was a lot better. I'm not as concerned when it's in the biceps." Strasburg attributed the soreness in part to working too hard in the days following his previous start. "The biceps is fine," he said. "It's just throwing a lot of pitches early, then we put up a lot of runs and stuff. I just got a little tired, got a little tight, but that's nothing different than any other outing." Strasburg sent an 0-2 pitch from Wei-Yin Chen into the Baltimore bullpen in the fourth inning to put the Nationals ahead 5-3. After dusting off his home run trot and returning to the dugout, he responded to a curtain call by waving to the crowd of 41,918. "Shocking, that's for sure," Strasburg said of his clout. "I feel like in (batting practice) I have to swing a lot harder to hit it out. I just somehow ran into one." He was almost embarrassed about his trip around the bases and subsequent climb up the dugout steps. "I'm not big for going out there and showboating," Strasburg said. "It was great, but I know my place. I'm not a real hitter out there so I'm not going to go out there and act like I do it all the time." The hard-throwing Strasburg had five hits in 40 big league at-bats before Sunday. He singled and scored in the third inning, then followed a shot by Jesus Flores with one of his own in the fourth. "I didn't expect Stras to hit a breaking ball," Johnson said. "He doesn't usually see breaking balls. (Third base coach) Bo Porter came in after and said we found a left fielder." Known more for his pitching than his hitting, Strasburg excelled at both. The right-hander allowed three runs, one earned, four hits and a walk in his first career appearance against Baltimore. He retired the last 10 batters he faced. Since returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery last September, Strasburg is 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 14 starts. Danny Espinosa also homered, and Bryce Harper drove in two runs and scored three for the Nationals. Chen (4-1) yielded six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings and absorbed his first major league loss. The Taiwan native was vying to become the first Baltimore starter to begin his Orioles career with five straight wins since Jimmy Key in 1997. "This is baseball. Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have a bad day," Chen said through a translator. "Definitely, I had a terrible start today." The loss ended Baltimore's five-game winning streak and nine-game road run. The Orioles scored the game's first three runs but got only two hits after the second inning -- both in the ninth. "If you came in today thinking you'd get their starting pitcher out of the game after five innings, you'd like your chances," manager Buck Showalter said Baltimore went up 1-0 in the first when Xavier Avery walked, advanced on a fly ball and scored on a single by Nick Markakis. The Orioles added a pair of unearned runs in the second after Harper drifted from center to left field to chase down a wind-blown fly ball, then dropped it. Robert Andino drove in a run with a groundout and Avery added an RBI single before Strasburg struck out J.J. Hardy with two outs and runners on second and third. Harper made amends in a three-run third. Strasburg singled, Espinosa doubled and Harper hit a liner to right that a diving Markakis gloved but lost when he hit the ground. The triple scored two runs, and Harper scored on a groundout by Ian Desmond. Flores gave Washington a 4-3 lead with his first homer since Aug. 18, and that only served as a prelude to Strasburg's drive. Desmond chased Chen with an RBI single in the fifth, and Espinosa homered with a runner on during a three-run eighth. NOTES: Orioles C Matt Wieters, who had the day off after a night game, will have to wait until Monday to try to snap an 0-fror-18 slump. ... Tommy Hunter (2-2) takes the mound for Baltimore on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against visiting Boston. ... Gio Gonzalez vies for his sixth win when the Nationals open a nine-game road trip Monday in Philadelphia. ... Avery got his first major league stolen base.

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Trotz sees value for the Caps in their early season road trip

Trotz sees value for the Caps in their early season road trip

After enjoying three of their first five games at home to start the season, the Capitals now must pack their bags for a long road trip that will take them through western Canada.

The upcoming four-game road trip, the team’s second longest of the season, will take the Caps to Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. They will not host another game at Verizon Center until Nov. 3.

Despite facing a long trip away from home and the Caps’ faithful, Barry Trotz is excited by the prospect of the early trip.

“I think it'll be good for us,” he said. “I think last year we got our game going when we went out to Canada last year. Doesn't mean we're going to get it going this year at all, but it started on the road trip.”

RELATED: Trotz: Caps need more 'net presence'

Last season, the Caps hit the road in October for a three-game swing against Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. The Caps won all three of those games by a combined score of 16-8 to improve their record to 6-1-0. That trip was the first true glimpse of the Presidents’ Trophy winning team the Caps would become.

While everyone enjoys playing in front of their fans and sleeping in their own bed, long road trips can be beneficial when it comes early in the season as teams build chemistry among the players.

“I think what it does is, it's just hockey,” Trotz said. “It's guys playing hockey.”

All the distractions of home are gone when players hit the road. Rather than just practicing together, the players end up spending all their time together bonding. The only worry is hockey.

But the benefits of a road trip are limited if the team can’t find success.

“If we come back with a winning record, I'll say it's great and if we don't, I don't think it's very good,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think everybody says that ahead of the trip and then it might change your mind afterwards. Sometimes your record or your success has a lot of impact on what people really think about those trips.”

Unlike last season, this trip will not feature weak Canadian squads.

Edmonton and Vancouver are two of the hottest teams to start the season. Winnipeg, meanwhile, boasts talented rookie Patrick Laine.

If the Caps hope to use this season’s road trip as a springboard to the top of the standings as they did last year, they are going to have to earn it.

But for Trotz, he sees benefits to this trip beyond just the standings.

“On the road, I think it never hurts,” Trotz said. “It never hurts for your group.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz tweaks Caps' top lines in attempt to spark offense

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Morning tip: Wizards will welcome straight-shooting style from coaches

Morning tip: Wizards will welcome straight-shooting style from coaches

A few seasons ago, Trevor Ariza challenged John Wall about his role with the Wizards and what the point guard envisioned about everyone else's. Then it was Marcin Gortat questioning his role with the coaching staff. Last year, Jared Dudley encountered that, too. 

They weren't the only ones to express that under Randy Wittman, who kept his cards close to the vest with his players -- possibly contributing to players-only meetings called by Ariza and Dudley -- but new coach Scott Brooks is the exact opposite. It's among the many differences in the culture and how things are being handled as the Wizards put a 41-41 season behind them.

Wittman was a former player, as is Brooks. But Brooks is more new school than old school and this is yet another reason why his arrival is so welcomed. It's partly why he's called a "player's coach." 

"All of the guys know their role. I made that perfectly clear in our opening night meeting before our first training camp practice," said Brooks, who won't commit to his starting five publicly -- likely John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Gortat --  but maintains his players have known for quite some time. "It's that their role is to play as hard as they possibly can and play for their teammates whether if it's one minute or 48 minutes. You just got to do that and then we can live with the results. That kind of cleans everything up because I've been a player and I've been around players and when things don't go well they always fall back on, 'I don't know my role.' So all the players will know their role."

That means before training camp opened Sept. 27 in Richmond, Va., any doubts that anyone may have had before the first dribble were put to bed. 

[RELATED: Inevitable rise of Bradley Beal?]