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Baseball fan Stephen Strasburg gets ejected from the stands for arguing balls and strikes

Baseball fan Stephen Strasburg gets ejected from the stands for arguing balls and strikes

Even on his days off, Stephen Strasburg is paying close attention.

The Nationals starter and reigning World Series MVP was sitting in the stands at Citi Field on Thursday watching his club face the New York Mets in their series finale. In the bottom of the third, Austin Voth attempted to put Pete Alonso away with a breaking ball at the bottom of the strike zone. Alonso laid off and catcher Yan Gomes attempted to frame the pitch, but home plate umpire Carlos Torres called it a ball to push the count to 3-2.

That call didn’t sit well with the Nationals. Gomes held his glove up in the air even after Torres made the call and then took a few extra seconds before throwing the ball back to Voth. Torres then turned to the Nationals’ dugout and yelled for them to stop chirping about the strike zone. When he continued to hear arguments from the third-base side, he threw out someone on their bench.

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Only the player he threw out wasn’t on the bench. Strasburg stood up and tipped his cap to the umpire as he walked out of his seat in the stands and up toward the concourse.

The incident wasn’t the first time the Nationals had expressed their displeasure with Torres’ calls Thursday afternoon. Juan Soto was called out looking with the bases loaded on a pitch low in the zone and he had a few words with the umpire before walking back to the dugout.

Immediately after Strasburg’s ejection, Voth threw an almost identical pitch to Alonso and this time got the strike call. It was then the Mets’ bench to express their displeasure with Torres. The following inning, Soto was hit in the back by a 1-0 pitch thrown by Mets starter David Peterson. Both benches were issued warnings by the umpire crew.

The game was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth at the time.

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Stephen Strasburg’s debut shows he still has a ways to go

Stephen Strasburg’s debut shows he still has a ways to go

WASHINGTON -- Elegant pitching took place in the top of the fourth inning Sunday when Anthony Santander led off the inning.

Stephen Strasburg threw him a 79-mph curveball for a called strike. An 87-mph changeup was a ball. Another changeup produced a swinging strike. A third consecutive changeup led to another swinging strike and an out.

Strasburg needed just 43 pitches to finish four innings in his season debut. The problem was he went to pitch the fifth -- and that his achy right hand still has mild issues.

He recorded one out, faded rapidly and was removed after allowing five sudden runs. The hook was too late. The Nationals fell behind, 5-0, and were on the verge of a weekend sweep at the hands of the Orioles and a troublesome 4-8 record before the game was suspended because of oddball circumstances with a malfunctioning tarp.

“You can look at the negative, or you can look at the positive,” Strasburg said. “I think there was a lot more positives. I'm just going to focus on that. Obviously command and execution wasn't very good there in the fifth. They just hit a bunch of singles and found the right spots. So they made me pay for it.”

Strasburg’s start came two weeks after he was supposed to be on the game mound for the first time in 2020. A right wrist impingement caused a nerve problem in his right hand, which led to pain in his thumb. All of the issues with the hand subsided after time off and treatment. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday. Sunday, “Seven Nation Army” poured out of the stadium speakers for the first time this season.

The first four innings showed a pitcher with lowered velocity, but exceptional command. In essence, Strasburg looked like himself. Plenty of curveballs, changeups and outs. Of his 69 pitches, 37 were curveballs or changeups.

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Javy Guerra quickly worked to warm up when Strasburg faltered in the fifth inning. The first out of the inning came on a 101.1-mph line drive from Dwight Smith Jr. It was a harbinger.

Austin Hays hit a line drive to right field. Chance Sisco hit a line drive to right field. Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard came up the dugout steps to head toward the mound because Strasburg shook his right hand. Strasburg waived them back to their spots, though there was an issue.

“To be honest, I felt it,” Strasburg said of his hand pain. “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 feel the baseball and being able to commit to pitches. 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 walked the next batter. Pitching coach Paul Menhart went to talk to him. This, presumably, is when Strasburg should have been removed from the game. He was left in.

Bryan Holaday singled. A run scored. Hanser Alberto doubled. Two runs scored. Santander singled. Two runs scored.

Guerre came in. Strasburg departed.

The good news is Strasburg finally made a start in 2020. And, Max Scherzer is expected to return to the mound on Tuesday in New York.

The bad news is 25 percent of Strasburg’s potential starts are over. Starting pitchers were only in line for 12 this year. He missed two, then failed in the fifth inning in what would have been his third start. That gives him nine to go -- if the season makes it to the end -- with a hand that isn’t quite right.

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‘Stephen Strasburg’ the dog catches first pitch for Stephen Strasburg’s first start

‘Stephen Strasburg’ the dog catches first pitch for Stephen Strasburg’s first start

Stephen Strasburg made his 2020 debut Sunday after missing the first two and a half weeks of the season with a nerve issue in his throwing hand. But before he could take the mound, the Nationals put up a video on the jumbotron of another Stephen Strasburg catching the first pitch.

“Stephen Strasburg” was adopted from the Humane Rescue Center by baseball fan Mary Elizabeth Pratt—who notes she is a Cincinnati Reds fan who lives in D.C.—just before last fall’s World Series. Her pitch was a little bit outside but Stephen had no problem scooping it up and running it back over to her.

The baseball-playing Stephen Strasburg is coming off a year in which he won World Series MVP honors and signed a seven-year extension to remain with the Nationals.

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