Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg followed his only Triple A loss with five scoreless innings Thursday afternoon.
The Washington Nationals' top pitching prospect allowed no runs, three hits and one walk through five innings for the Syracuse Chiefs against the Buffalo Bisons. He preserved a 3-0 lead by getting International League batting leader Jesus Feliciano to ground out to second with runners at second and third and two out in the fifth.
But that was all for Strasburg, who struck out five. This stint in Triple A appears to be over, as he is scheduled to be with the Nationals for Tuesday's game against Pittsburgh.
In 11 minor league appearances, including six with Syracuse, he had a 6-2 record and a 1.30 ERA -- 1.08 with Syracuse.
Strasburg's arrival could certainly provide the Nationals a needed boost in several ways. They began the day sitting last in the National League East, though just 5½ games behind Atlanta, and have been ranked in the bottom third in major league attendance this season.
The game against Buffalo marked the seventh time Strasburg not allowed an earned run and followed a 3-2 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday. In each of his 11 starts -- including five with Double A Harrisburg -- he's had at least five strikeouts.
Against Buffalo, Strasburg opened efficiently, retiring the first eight batters he faced, including three strikeouts, before walking opposing pitcher Dillon Gee. He then gave up a two-out single to Feliciano before ending the inning by getting Chase Lambin to fly out to left.
The 21-year-old appeared to grow frustrated after walking Gee, which led to a mound visit by manager Trent Jewett.
Strasburg settled in the fourth inning, before running into trouble in the fifth.
Mike Cervenak opened with a single to left. With one out, Ruben Tejada hit a high-hopper over first baseman Josh Whitesell. Strasburg then struck out Gee looking before getting Feliciano to ground out on a full count.
With a majority of his pitches timed in the high 90s, including a 97 mph curve, Strasburg struggled with his control by throwing a first pitch for a strike only three times through the first 11 batters he faced.
Pete Orr gave the Chiefs a two-run lead on a two-out home run in the third inning. The Chiefs added another run in the fifth and eventually opened a 7-0 lead in the eighth inning.
Strasburg entered the game limited to throwing 95 pitches or six innings. Of his 89 pitches, he threw 54 for strikes.
The national focus on Strasburg hit a new high on Thursday, with the game broadcast nationally on Versus cable network. He drew three of the four largest crowds at Syracuse, and attracted an announced crowd of 14,744 in Buffalo. It was the second-largest crowd in Buffalo this season despite being a weekday afternoon.
Anticipating a large turnout, the Bisons opened their gates a half-hour early at 11:30 a.m. At least 100 fans already were lined up to get in, and once they did, many headed immediately to the left field stands near the Chiefs bullpen, where numerous security personnel were stationed. Security kept the first row overlooking the bullpen empty until Strasburg finished his warm-up.