Pitching in front of about 50 family members and friends, Strasburg lasted a career-high eight innings against his hometown Padres to snap a seven-start winless streak, and Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche homered to lead the Washington Nationals to a 6-2 victory against San Diego on Thursday night.
”It’s easy pitching in front of a lot of loved ones,” Strasburg said. ”It’s just another place to me, to be honest. It’s my hometown. I’m an Aztec. But I look forward to pitching anyplace in the big leagues. It’s kind of a dream come true.”
Strasburg’s 54th big league start was his first professional appearance at Petco Park. The big right-hander went to high school in suburban Santee and pitched for Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn at San Diego State before the Nationals took him with the first overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft. He pitched twice at Petco Park for SDSU.
”I heard a lot of `Welcome home’ and a lot of `Go Aztecs’ out there. It’s great. I’m just glad they remembered me.”
He allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits while striking out four and walking three. He got the final out of the eighth on his 117th pitch.
Strasburg had never thrown a pitch in the eighth inning of a big league start until he faced Everth Cabrera on Thursday night.
Strasburg said he had been looking forward to ”just getting deep in the ballgame, getting used to that, getting into the routine of how you’re body’s going to feel the next day and learning how to recover and getting ready to doing it again.”
Strasburg (2-5) had gone seven innings 10 times, including three this year.
He said he was happy manager Davey Johnson let him go back out for the eighth.
”I’m just glad he wasn’t waiting for me at the top step after the seventh,” Strasburg said. ”I went out there in the eighth and I got the first out and it was like, `All right, so this is what it feels like. I trust Davey’s judgment and obviously he saw that my stuff was still there. He had the trust in me to go out there and get it done.”
Strasburg was supposed to pitch at Petco Park last year but a rainout pushed that start back.
”I thought he pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Johnson said. ”It was the first time he’s ever gone eight innings. It was a good homecoming for him. I liked it. I didn’t think he was as sharp as he usually is, but it was a good ballgame. It was nice to see some offense coming up to give him some run support.”
Strasburg earned his first victory since beating Miami on opening day.
In Strasburg’s only other appearance against the Padres, he lasted just four innings in a 6-1 loss at Washington on May 15, 2012.
Strasburg held the Padres scoreless through four innings and allowed only one run in the fifth despite loading the bases with one out.
”He kept the ball down for the most part,” San Diego’s Yonder Alonso said. ”We had the bases loaded there and we couldn’t get it done.”
Harper, back in the lineup three nights after running full-on into the scoreboard in right field at Dodger Stadium, hit a monster shot estimated at 431 feet to straightaway center field on the first pitch he saw from Tyson Ross with two outs in the seventh. Harper’s homer nearly reached the base of the batter’s eye. It was his 11th.
Harper’s violent collision with the wall at Dodger Stadium left the 20-year-old slugger with 11 stitches in his chin and a sore body. Harper said he felt a little better but his whole left side was still sore. He played left field and batted third.
LaRoche hit a two-run homer into the sandy play area beyond the fence in right-center off Edinson Volquez (3-4) with one out in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. It was his fifth.
The Nationals added three runs off Volquez in the fifth, on a two-run single by Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI single by Steve Lombardozzi.
Volquez allowed five runs and five hits in five innings, struck out seven and walked four.
San Diego’s Jedd Gyorko led off the fifth with a double that caromed off the base of the stands in left and Alexi Amarista walked. With one out, pinch-hitter Kyle Blanks hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whose throw to second sailed over Steve Lombardozzi for an error that loaded the bases. Everth Cabrera’s groundout brought in a run before Strasburg struck out Will Venable.
”He worked his way out of that jam,” Padres manager Bud Black said. ”We tried to get a little closer. He made a couple of pitches to minimize the damage and that got him through the middle part of the game.”
Chris Denorfia hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
NOTES:Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, known as ”Johnny Football,” threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He put a football twist on it by dropping back, scrambling and tossing it to Mark Kotsay, who caught it behind his back. Manziel also took two rounds of batting practice, with mixed results. The bat went flying out of his hands on his first swing, but he later hit a ball off the right-field wall at Petco Park. Manziel took BP while wearing loafers. … Manziel is in town to work with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr. ”He came out here last year as a third-stringer and now he comes out here as a Heisman Trophy winner,” Whitfield said. … Manziel and Padres RHP Burch Smith have known each other since they were kids growing up in Tyler, Texas. Manziel said Smith once pulled a prank on him by locking him a batting cage. … Johnson, who also went to Texas A&M, chatted up Manziel during batting practice. … Manziel threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels. … Padres LF Carlos Quentin missed the game to be with his wife, Jeane, who gave birth to their first son, Clark.