The Washington Nationals and their two young prized possessions, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, took center stage on Friday night at Fenway Park. It was Strasburg who kept the Boston Red Sox hitters at bay while Harper was busy mashing the ball offensively in a 7-4 win for the visitor's from our Nation's capital.
In years past, the Nationals have been a pushover. Not this year folks.
With their win over the local nine on Friday night, they now stand at 33-23 and lead the NL East by a game over the Atlanta Braves. On the contrary, the Red Sox fall to back to .500 at 29-29 but are just four games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
If you've never seen Strasburg's stuff, let's just say he's filthy good. He throws his fastball between 96-100 MPH and has a nasty changeup to go along with a great curveball.
After the Red Sox touched him up for two runs in the 2nd inning, he settled down and retired the next 11 batters he faced, eight via the strikeout, until Dustin Pedroia singled in the 6th inning which turned out to be the only other time the Red Sox would have him on the ropes.
After the Pedroia single, Adrian Gonzalez doubled and that was followed by a walk to David Ortiz. But Strasburg beared down and struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging and then finished off the threat by getting Kevin Youkilis on a called strike three. Youk didn't think it was a strikeout and took exception to home plate umpire Doug Eddings call and was ejected from the game.
Offensively, it was a solid game for Gonzalez who went 2-for-5 with a solo home run and the previously mentioned double. He probably should have had three hits in the game but Xavier Nady stole a home run from him in front of the Nats bullpen in right field. Gonzalez along with Scott Podsednik can say they were the only ones who Strasburg didn't strikeout. He finished the game with 13 strikeouts by the way.
Daniel Nava had two more hits atop the Red Sox lineup. Mike Aviles knocked in two runs with a double in the 2nd inning.
Felix Doubront started this one for the Red Sox and he looked good for the first two innings as he had his curveball working. But things took a turn for the worse in the 3rd and 4th innings when he was touched up for six runs. The main reason was that he was leaving pitches up in the zone, primarily his fastball and curveball, and the Nationals hitters took advantage of it.
Harper was one of those Nats hitters who did just that as he finished the night going 3-for-5 with a two-run homer off Doubront. He finished a triple short of the cycle.
In case you were wondering, Daniel Bard had a rough start for the PawSox. He hit two of the first three batters he faced and ended up giving up three runs in the one inning he was scheduled to work. Definitely not the start he or the Red Sox were probably looking for.
Yesterday Bard had said he found the flaw in his mechanics. It's obvious after this one inning debacle that there's a little more going on, probably mentally, for Bard. Hopefully, he can turn things around whether it be as a starter or a reliever. You hate to see someone with that much talent have something like this happen to him.
The Red Sox will welcome back Daisuke Matsuzaka to the rotation on Saturday afternoon. He'll take the mound for the first time almost one year to the day after undergoing Tommy John surgery. It'll be interesting to see what he can bring to the table tomorrow and going forward for the Red Sox who could certainly use a good outing from him.
We'll be back later with today's lineups, batter/pitcher matchups and links from the day. So for now, let's take at look at the overnight links from the media by clicking on the read more button below if you're on the home page.
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Nationals show off treasures [Boston Globe]
Striking impression [Boston Globe]
Hype doesn’t get in way [Boston Globe]
Matsuzaka set for long-awaited 2012 debut [Boston Globe]
Phenoms rock Sox [Boston Herald]
Gio nice complement [Boston Herald]
At 19, Harper impresses all [Boston Herald]
Doubront can't measure up in duel [Boston Herald]
Two National treasures [Boston Herald]
Bard sees progress in one-inning outing [Rob Bradford - WEEI.com]
Strasburg, Harper overpower Sox [CSN New England]
Sox pleased with battles vs. Strasburg [CSN New England]
Harper torments Doubront [CSN New England]
Gonzalez collects 200th homer after being robbed in earlier at-bat [CSN New England]
Bard hits two, allows three runs in inning at Pawtucket [CSN New England]
Rapid Reaction: Nationals 7, Red Sox 4 [ESPN Boston]
Bard throws 1 inning in PawSox start [ESPN Boston]
Dice-K to return, start vs. Nats [ESPN Boston]
Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg overpower Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park debut [ESPN Boston]
Of phenoms, past and present: Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Bobby Valentine [Full Count]
Before there was Stephen Strasburg, there was Mark Prior [Full Count]
Closing Time: Harper, Strasburg deliver historic performances as Nationals drop Red Sox [Full Count]
Bobby Valentine Downplays Notion That His Speaking Japanese Will Help Daisuke Matsuzaka in Return to Majors [NESN.com]
Stephen Strasburg Earns Respect From Red Sox Clubhouse As One of Baseball's Elite Pitchers [NESN.com]
Bobby Valentine's Defense of Kevin Youkilis Shows Manager's Commitment to Red Sox Through Peaks and Valleys [NESN.com]
Bryce Harper Relishes Fenway Park Atmosphere, Exceeds Expectations Against Red Sox [NESN.com]
Adrian Gonzalez Feeling Confident in Swing Again After Underwhelming Start to Season (Video) [NESN.com]
Former pitching coach Cather weighs in on Bard [Pawtucket Times]
Dice-K looking forward to 'emotional' return [RedSox.com]
Command issues follow Bard to Triple-A [RedSox.com]
For more slices of Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CSN New England, ESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal, RedSox.com and WEEI websites.
And if you must check out the enemy news, be sure to head over to the MASN, Washington Post and Washington Times websites. Also be sure to check out our Bloguin brother The Nats Blog for all of your Orioles needs.
Follow Ian on Twitter @soxanddawgs. And be sure to like us on Facebook as well.
photo credit: Getty Images
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