Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg took a big step in the right direction Saturday night at Triple-A Syracuse, hurling five impressive innings of one-run ball in his fifth minor league rehab start.
Strasburg was perfect through five innings before allowing two singles to open the sixth. He was then pulled, and one of those runners later scored.
The 23-year-old fanned seven of the 17 batters he faced, hitting the upper-90s with his fastball and showing improved movement on his breaking pitches. Strasburg only made it to 64 pitches, however, so it’s a near-guarantee that he will be asked to make at least one more rehab appearance.
The current plan — albeit tentative — calls for him to return to the major leagues around September 6.
Strasburg registered a 2.91 ERA and 92/17 K/BB ratio over 68 innings last season as a rookie before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery on September 3 , 2010.
With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.
Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.
After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.