Stephen Strasburg earns a bow; Dodgers beat Nationals, 7-3
Stephen Strasburg strolled to the mound, if fashionably late, and was not carried on a walking throne by manservants. Hitters were not required to bow before entering the batter's box. Plebeians in the crowd did not throw rose petals at his feet, at least not literally.
Otherwise, royalty arrived and then actually delivered. Which, considering the buildup and the fawning, is saying something.
In his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery, the expressionless Strasburg was in total command. With machine-like efficiency, the Washington Nationals' 23-year-old phenom shut out the Dodgers for five innings, throwing 56 pitches on a wet Tuesday night in Washington.
The Dodgers cooperated, swinging early and often, and at no point did they actually pretend to threaten Strasburg. Maybe they’d read his effusive press clippings. And just maybe, Strasburg will actually continue to live up to the incredible hype.
Strasburg left with a 3-0 lead, but the Dodgers came back to tie it in the sixth and prevent the right-hander from earning the victory.
The Dodgers ultimately defeated the Nationals, 7-3, taking the lead on a two-run single by Rod Barajas in the eighth, Strasburg by then long gone, his budding legend one outstanding start richer, the game itself almost reduced to a sideshow.
Considering it was his first major league game in more than 13 months, it was a remarkably controlled performance.
Strasburg gave up a leadoff double to Dee Gordon –- a single for almost any other hitter -- and then retired 11 consecutive Dodgers before Juan Rivera singled off the glove of shortstop Ian "I Have Zero Range" Desmond.
Strasburg was why the national media descended upon Nationals Park. Sorry, it was not to see if Ted Lilly would allow another solo home run.
Lilly struggled early, the Nationals scoring three times in the second. Doubles by Chris Marrero and Wilson Ramos scored one. Lilly fielded Strasburg's sacrifice bunt and threw the ball past first for an error to allow Ramos to score. Desmond's single sent Strasburg to third, and he scored on Jayson Werth's ground out.
After that, Lilly was sharp. He retired 12 of his last 13 hitters. He also went five innings, allowing the three runs (two earned) and four hits with three walks. He did, however, strike out nine.
The Dodgers tied it in the sixth after Jamey Carroll and Gordon led off with basehits. Brad Peacock, making his major league debut –- following Strasburg, no less -– gave up a run-scoring single to Matt Kemp that went off Desmond’s glove, and then walked Rivera to load the bases.
Andre Ethier then singled up the middle to drive in Gordon and Kemp to tie it. Ethier would finish with four RBIs.
After a 31-minute rain delay in the top of the seventh, the Dodgers took the lead on Barajas' two-run single in the eighth. Ethier doubled in two insurance runs in the ninth.
Kenley Jansen (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh to earn the victory, Mike MacDougal –- saved by a diving catch by Justin Sellers -– threw a scoreless eighth, and Javy Guerra escaped a bases-loaded jam he created in the ninth.
Six Dodgers pitchers combined to strike out 17 Nationals.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Credit: Greg Fiume / Getty Images