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Strasburg bounces back


Strasburg bounces back

There may be no pitcher in baseball who beats himself up after a poor outing more than Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander might as well be wrapped in Kryptonite during the four days after he takes a loss.
"You don't really want to get close to him," manager Davey Johnson said. "Because he's very cognizant of every little thing that doesn't go the way he plans."
Strasburg may get down on himself after a bad start, but he also rebounds from those rare occasions better than anyone in his profession. Just ask the Marlins, who on Sunday once again served as roadkill for the 24-year-old hurler.
With six scoreless innings of three-hit ball, Strasburg pitched the Nationals to a 4-1 victory and once again erased the negative memories of his prior start.
In that previous outing Tuesday against the Phillies, Strasburg matched his career-high in allowing six earned runs while lasting only four innings (his shortest appearance ever when health wasn't a factor). But history has shown he always bounces back when handed the ball again.
Strasburg has surrendered four or more earned runs only five times in his big-league career. In the five starts that followed, he's now 4-0 with an 0.90 ERA.
"Really?" first baseman Adam LaRoche wondered aloud when told of that fact.
Does that ability to bounce back from a bad start to dominate the next time out reveal something about a pitcher?
"I think after a bad start, you sit down and you look at the mistakes you made," LaRoche said. "And I think for him, a lot of the time, he feels like he mentally let down or over-thought something. ... He comes back after a start and he'll blame himself for the majority of it. So I can see the next time out not allowing himself to go there, to stick with his gameplan and attack everybody, trust how good your stuff is."
Strasburg indeed appeared to go back to basics on Sunday, relying more on his fastball and staying in sync with catcher Jesus Flores. He issued only one walk, struck out six, extended his scoreless innings streak against the Marlins to 27 and still had more left in the tank when Johnson pulled him after 91 pitches.
Cognizant of the heat and humidity on an August afternoon in D.C., not to mention Strasburg's nebulous innings limit in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Johnson decided to turn to his bullpen for the game's final three innings. The philosophy worked, with Craig Stammen giving up back-to-back doubles to open the seventh but then setting down the Marlins in order to close out the inning, Sean Burnett tossing a 1-2-3 eighth and then Drew Storen -- yes, Drew Storen -- pitching a scoreless ninth in his first save opportunity of the season.
Having lost his job to bullpen-mate and roommate Tyler Clippard while recovering from elbow surgery, Storen has been used exclusively in a setup role since coming off the disabled list last month. But after Clippard had pitched on three consecutive days, Johnson decided to let the man who saved 43 games in 2011 get a crack at his first save of 2012.
Storen responded with a dominant inning of relief. Though he allowed a two-out single to Greg Dobbs, he mixed and matched his best assortment of pitches since his surgery, getting devastating movement on his slider, changeup and sinker to baffle the Miami lineup with the game on the line.
"It was good to see him back out there and get that out of the way," Johnson said. "It kind of completes the rehab."
Said Storen: "It was a lot of fun. Especially when you're pitching for a first-place team in that situation, it doesn't get much better than that."
The Nationals afforded Storen the opportunity to close because they jumped out to an early lead thanks to a four-run second inning that featured clutch hits from their two most-consistent offensive forces this season: LaRoche and Strasburg.
LaRoche, who just completed an 11-for-18, 4-homer, 10-RBI week, is not that big a surprise as an offensive contributor. Strasburg, on the other hand, has emerged out of nowhere this season to become the best-hitting pitcher in the game. His two-run single off Ricky Nolasco Sunday raised his batting average to .343 and his RBI total to seven.
Extrapolate his numbers out over a 600 at-bat season, and Strasburg would drive in 120 runs.
"I can't explain it," he said. "Just trying to not strike out every time, just trying to do my job. It's big when you have a pitcher in your lineup who can handle a bat."
And it's even bigger when you have a pitcher in your rotation who can brush off sub-par starts and come back five days later with dominant performances.
All Strasburg has to do is remember what got him here in the first place.
"Nobody's ever come down to first base and said it's a comfortable at-bat," LaRoche said. "Every hitter I've ever talked to down there is not comfortable in the box. That's the best thing a pitcher can ask for. He just needs to believe it every start. He's getting there."

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Joe Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen

Joe Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen

It turns out Joe Ross may be closer to returning than originally thought, or at least closer than it seemed on Monday. On Tuesday, Ross took a big step in his recovery from right shoulder inflammation by throwing a bullpen session in Baltimore at Camden Yards.

That was a step Ross waited weeks to take and, though it was only about 30 pitches, the right-hander felt great coming out of it and now has a potential return in much clearer focus.

"The head trainer, Paul Lessard, he came in and gave me the thumbs up," manager Dusty Baker said. "I know Joe has been champing at the bit and it was very successful. He said he didn't feel anything. Hopefully we can put him back to work here pretty soon."

"It feels really good, that's why I'm pretty excited," Ross said. "I finally got to throw off the mound and it's feeling good. Hopefully it feels good from here."

Ross hopes to throw another bullpen session this week and then increase his workload up from there. As for when he will return, that has not been determined.

"I don't know exactly how long, but I want to get back on the mound as soon as possible. I'm feeling better. That's what I'm working towards," he said.

Ross, though, could return sooner than under usual circumstances, as the Nats may be inclined to skip a minor league rehab assignment and instead have him rejoin them as a reliever. He could build his innings that way and eventually return to the rotation some time in September.

"It makes sense," Ross said. "I know the season's coming to an end for the minor league side. So if that what we've got to do, that's what we've got to do. I mean, I'd just be happy being out there pitching. I'll take whatever role I can get for now. But obviously want to try to get back to starting in September, mid-September. That's the goal."

Baker thinks having Ross pitch out of the bullpen could also come in handy later on.

"We're in the middle of a pennant race. I haven't talked to Mike [Rizzo] about it or anything, I just talked to Joe about it. I just didn't want him surprised that that was the case. We want him if possible, if he's ready, on the playoff roster. That's always a possibility for a fourth or fifth starter to be in the bullpen, anyways. So, we'll see. We'll see how his progress comes," he said.

Ross hasn't pitched in the majors since July 2. He hasn't pitched in a game since July 30, when he appeared with the Triple-A Syracuse.

[RELATED: Nats place Strasburg on DL with elbow injury]


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NL East: Noah Syndergaard wants people to spell his name correctly

NL East: Noah Syndergaard wants people to spell his name correctly

One of the New York Mets' top starting pitchers wants you to know something: His name is spelled Noah Syndergaard. That's S-y-n-d-e-r-g-a-a-r-d. 

Apparently, it's something that's been tripping up a lot of folks lately, and the 23-year-old right hander has had enough. Syndergaard posted a tweet Monday calling out the MLB Shop Mets team store for selling jerseys that ready "SYNEDGAARD" on the back. 


As you can imagine, he was less than amused. What's even more, this is the second time in consecutive months that there's been an error. Check out the tweet below at the All-Star Game. 


Luckily, the nickname "Thor" has caught on in the Big Apple. Maybe they should sell jerseys with that on the back instead.

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Reynaldo Lopez starts opposite Kevin Gausman as Nats play at Orioles

Reynaldo Lopez starts opposite Kevin Gausman as Nats play at Orioles

Nats (73-51) at Orioles (68-56) at Turner Field

Reynaldo Lopez (2-1, 4.37) has been a lifesaver for the Nationals in his last two starts with just two earned runs surrendered across 14 innings. He's helped out their ailing starting rotation and their bullpen, which has been overworked in recent weeks.

Both of those outings, though, came against the last-place Atlanta Braves. On Tuesday night, Lopez will face a much tougher test in the Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards is not a friendly place for pitchers and Lopez again will be counted on to go deep to help the rest of the Nationals' staff.

Lopez will go opposite another talented young right-hander in Orioles starter Kevin Gausman (4-10, 4.11). A former fourth overall pick, Gausman has a 9.14 strikeout-per-nine rate this season.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Reynaldo Lopez vs. Orioles - Kevin Gausman


CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Clint Robinson
SS Danny Espinosa
(RHP Reynaldo Lopez)


CF Adam Jones
LF Steve Pearce
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
2B Jonathan Schoop
DH Pedro Alvarez
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
(RHP Kevin Gausman)