Heist: Strasburg is sharp as Nats and Mets play to a tie

Craig Heist, wtop.com

VIERA, Fla. – Stephen Strasburg allowed one run on three hits and struck out six in his second start of the spring as the Nationals and Mets played to a 4-4 tie at Space Coast Stadium.

Strasburg gave up back-to-back singles by Jordany Valdespin and Coillin Cowgill to start the game. With runners at first and third, Mike Baxter brought home Valdespin with a sac fly to left to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

Strasburg then recovered and got back-to-back strikeouts of Andrew Brown and Kirk Nieuwnehuis to end the inning. In the second and the third, Strasburg walked a batter in each inning but also fanned two in each. He threw 51 pitches, 33 for strikes.

“I had a little bit better fastball command this time,” Strasburg said.

“I was able to work down at the knees a little better. Off speed, I really didn’t throw enough off speed to see how it was the last game but I threw it a little bit more and it felt good.”

After his first start against the Mets in Port St. Lucie last Saturday, Strasburg said he was too amped up in the first inning throwing 42 pitches, 24 for strikes, while giving up two runs and he realizes he needs to keep that in check early in games, something that is difficult to do early on in the spring.

“It gets better but being this early I don’t feel like I haven’t had enough mound time for it to just click and not really think about it so I’m just trying to feel it out a bit,” he said.

“I was able to make the adjustment a little bit faster this time and hopefully build off that in the bullpen coming up and try and do it again next outing.”

Strasburg enters this season with no limitations after being shutdown in early September last year. Coming off a 15-6 season, there is no doubt he wants to prove what he can do now knowing there is no innings limit this time.

“I want to prove it to myself. That’s something growing up and watching some of the greatest pitchers, you look at a guy like Jake Peavy, he was in my own backyard and I grew up watching him. He’s a bulldog out there. Even if you have little tweaks and little nicks on your body and stuff, he’s going to go out there and give it everything he has every fifth day.”

Manager Davey Johnson has noticed a little more laid back Strasburg this spring as his right-hander continues to learn what the Major League game is all about.

“The experience you get, he’s learning more about how hitters approach him and how best to use his stuff, he’s still in the learning stage,” Johnson said.

“He wants to be treated like everyone else. He didn’t like the fact he was going to be on an innings limit. He wanted to pitching with the rest of the guys when he came back and I had him in 2011. He couldn’t wait for the coming year because he was going to start just like everyone else.”

This is a different spring for the tall right-hander. He is trying to take things slower and work on things as he goes. He has the 95-98 mph fastball and a devastating change-up but right now he is trying to find a better way to throw his sinker.

“I have to get over the idea of throwing it harder will make it better,” he said.

” I think if I take a little more off it and get a little more movement on it that will be better. I feel like I am almost throwing it through the sink and its flattening out so, I kind of want to try and do that, throw it a little bit slower, let it move a little more and I’ll get some better results.”

As for results, in two games Strasburg has thrown five innings and has pitched to an ERA of 5.40 with two walks and seven strikeouts but he knows it’s all about the bigger picture during this time of the year.

“You can’t worry about results in Spring Training because you want to work on your fastball and a lot of these guys are going to be swinging within the first two pitches and they’re going to be looking fastball. You know, you just have to keep going out there and just rolling with it and then there is going to be a time where you start cranking it up a little more and treat it like a game like situation.”

Rendon continues to impress

Anthony Rendon started at third base went 1-for-2 with a double and two RBI. He is hitting .417 and is 5-for-12 on the spring with 10 total bases while slugging .833.

Jayson Werth and Matt Skole drove in the other two runs for the Nationals.

Mattheus strong again

Nats relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus was solid again in his second outing of the spring. After picking up the save in a 6-4 win over the Mets Monday in Port St. Lucie, Mattheus pitched two innings, face six batters and struck out three of them without allowing a hit.

“I felt really good tonight,” Mattheus said.

“Tonight was just one of those nights. You get a few of those during the season where everything clicks, I hit every spot.”

“I ever threw a good slider tonight,” he joked.

“It was pone of those rare outings you don’t get very much so, it was good.”

The Z-man gets closer

Manager Davey Johnson says Ryan Zimmerman will get into his first game Sunday at home against the Cardinals. Zimmerman will be the DH for the first 10-days-to- two-weeks while he continues to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder. The Nats will then get Zimmerman into a game at third base.

Disney at night

The Nationals will head to Disney to take on the Atlanta Braves on Friday night. Jordan Zimmermann will get his second start of the spring and will be opposed by Julio Teheran. First pitch is at 6:05.

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