WASHINGTON – Stephen Strasburg's season debut was about to unravel in a five-run fifth inning Sunday, when he walked a batter and vigorously shook his right hand.
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez and a trainer exited the dugout to go check on the World Series MVP, who's had a nerve issue in his pitching hand. He waved them off.
Strasburg stayed in long enough to face three more batters and allow three more hits to the Orioles in a game that eventually was suspended with Baltimore ahead 5-2 in the top of the sixth — because the grounds crew had trouble unrolling the tarp when a shower arrived.
“I don’t know if you can call it a rain delay. More of a tarp delay," Strasburg said with a smile. “Add this to the list in 2020.”
The game will resume at Baltimore on Friday, when the teams already were supposed to be opening a series, meaning the Orioles will try to finish off this three-game Nationals Park sweep while playing at Camden Yards.
Strasburg missed his first two starts, and while the team pronounced him ready to go -- “He’s completely past it. He wouldn’t be on the mound today if he wasn’t,” GM Mike Rizzo said a half-hour before the game -- the righty acknowledged afterward he's still working his way back.
“To be honest, I felt it, and I don't know if it was necessarily like fatigue or just not having necessarily the stamina built up quite yet. But it’s something where I don't think I'm doing any long-term harm on it, but it does have an impact on being able to throw the baseball and being able to commit to pitches,” Strasburg said about shaking his hand in the fifth.
“So that’s something I haven't quite figured out -- how to pitch through it yet. So I think the goal is to continue to get built up and get the pitch count up to where that won’t be flaring up over the course of the start," he said.
Six batters in a row reached — five via hits — including Hanser Alberto’s two-run double and Anthony Santander’s two-run single.
“Strasburg was good the first four and we got to him in the fifth,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “It was his first start back, so I really don’t want to put too much into it.”
“You can look at the negatives or you can look at the positives, and I think there was a lot more positives,” he said.
Starlin Castro’s first homer for the Nationals made it 5-2 in the fifth.
With Baltimore up in the sixth, the rain came, lasting just 20 minutes. But the game was held up for more than two hours before it was called, while attempts were made to make the soaked infield dirt usable.
But because of the tarp issue — deemed “mechanical error,” according to Martinez — the game was suspended, rather than ended.
“Our guys were ready to play,” Hyde said. “It’s just unfortunate things happened the way they happened.”
Rizzo said there haven’t been any discussions with ownership about his contract, which expires after this season. “But I’m not worried about it. They’ll take care of it when they deem themselves ready to take care of it,” Rizzo said. Asked what the timeline might be for discussing the status of Martinez, whose contract includes a club option for 2021, Rizzo responded: “I don’t have a timeline, but Davey is deserving of one. He’s earned it."
Orioles: C Pedro Severino was out of the lineup because his left hand was sore after he was hit by a pitch there in the ninth inning Saturday night. ... SS José Iglesias was given a day off before the team’s scheduled off-day Monday so he could get 48 hours to rest his left quadriceps muscle, which has been a lingering issue this season.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer, who left his last start after one inning because of a bothersome right hamstring, is slated to take his next scheduled turn, Tuesday at the New York Mets. “We are not making any firm announcement, but I would imagine he is going to take the mound on Tuesday,” Rizzo said.
Orioles: Open a three-game series at Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Nationals: Will play away from Washington for the first time in 2020, taking a train to New York for a four-game series at the Mets that opens Monday. That will be followed by series at Baltimore and Atlanta.
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