WASHINGTON (AP) — Stepping back into the batter's box after an 8-minute rain delay to face Stephen Strasburg with a 3-2 count, two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, San Diego's John Baker guessed what was coming.
Baker smacked the first pitch after play resumed back up the middle for a two-run single, part of his three-hit, three-RBI afternoon. Will Venable produced four hits, and San Diego knocked Strasburg out after only four innings Tuesday, matching the second-shortest appearance of his 25-start career, in the Padres' 6-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.
"One of the things I respect the most about Strasburg is that he pitches you like a man. He comes at you with the fastball. It's kind of old school," Baker said. "You've got to be ready to hit that — and if you're not ready, then he's going to bury you."
Strasburg (3-1) dealt with various issues: a leadoff double that fell in with three defensive players nearby, starting San Diego's three-run first inning; the brief shower that interrupted that inning; a soggy ball and rosin bag; and a not-quite-clear matter involving what manager Davey Johnson said was some Hot Stuff penetrating ointment that accidentally "got to the wrong place."
"It was on his shoulder and evidently — I don't know how it got to where it got, but it was uncomfortable, to say the least," Johnson said with a chuckle.
Asked about it, Strasburg said: "I'm going to keep that in the clubhouse."
And the other problems?
"As far as the rain, it's tough with them calling it when the count's 3-2 with the bases loaded," Strasburg said. "Obviously you've got to throw a fastball over the plate. I got a groundball, it just made it through the hole."
San Diego right-hander Anthony Bass (2-4) — making his 10th start in the majors — tied his longest outing by going eight innings. He allowed five hits and one run — on Bryce Harper's homer to right-center, the 19-year-old outfielder's second consecutive game with a solo shot.
"It's a big thing, going deep into ballgames," Bass said. "That's one thing I take a lot of pride in."
Bass struck out seven and walked one before giving way to reliever Andrew Cashner for the ninth. Cashner struck out Harper swinging at a 101 mph pitch to end it.
Padres manager Bud Black said about his starter: "Now we're seeing more of a pitcher. You're seeing off-speed behind in the count. You're seeing a guy changing speeds, moving the fastball in and out."