WASHINGTON – Stephen Strasburg returned from his first trip to the disabled list and turned in the worst start of his sometimes-spectacular rookie season.
Washington's prized right-hander allowed a career-high six earned runs in a career-low 4 1-3 innings Tuesday night, and the Florida Marlins beat the Nationals 8-2.
Dan Uggla drove in four runs with a homer and a double, and Hanley Ramirez hit two of his three doubles off Strasburg (5-3), whose ERA rose from 2.32 to 3.07. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft had not allowed more than three earned runs or lasted fewer than five innings in any of his previous nine major league games.
Strasburg struck out at least five hitters in each prior start — including a high of 14 in his June 8 debut — but had only four Ks against Florida, and two were of opposing pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Strasburg gave up six hits and two walks, and went to three-ball counts on five of his first 12 batters.
Sanchez (9-7), meanwhile, went 6 2-3 innings and both runs he was responsible for were unearned. He allowed five hits and had seven strikeouts.
Strasburg hadn't pitched since a victory at Cincinnati on July 21. His next scheduled start was July 27 at home against Atlanta, but he had trouble getting loose in the bullpen beforehand, prompting general manager Mike Rizzo to scratch the pitcher he signed to a record $15.1 million contract.
Two days later, Strasburg went on the DL with shoulder inflammation.
Although it only had been three weeks since Strasburg last faced major league hitters, his appearance was described as a "long-awaited return" by the PA announcer at Nationals Park. Dozens in the crowd of 25,939 gathered along the walls above the home bullpen to watch him warm up.
His first real pitch was a 99 mph ball to Ramirez, who eventually popped out. But Strasburg walked Logan Morrison and gave up Uggla's 26th homer on a 99 mph fastball, a shot that landed in the red flowers barely beyond the wall in left.
Strasburg's next pitch, to Cody Ross, registered at 100 mph for a swinging strike, before Ross lined out on a diving catch by center fielder Roger Bernadina.
More trouble came in an eventful third, when there was action in Washington's bullpen as Florida took a 4-0 lead.
Strasburg gave up Ramirez's first double, walked Morrison again, was visited by pitching coach Steve McCatty, and eventually gave up Uggla's two-run double over left fielder Josh Willingham's head.
Early in the game, Strasburg was his usual, flamethrowing self, regularly hitting 98 or 99 mph. By the fourth, his fastballs were at 95 mph.
After Ramirez doubled on an 0-2 count in the fifth, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman came out for a visit. Two batters later, Gaby Sanchez doubled off Willingham's glove for a 5-1 lead. That was it for Strasburg, who glanced away while handing Riggleman the ball.
It was Batista, a 39-year-old journeyman reliever, who was pressed into starting when Strasburg was a last-minute scratch two weeks ago, a switch that drew boos from a sellout crowd of more than 40,000. Asked that night about the jeers, Batista said: "Imagine, if you go there to see Miss Universe, and you end up having Miss Iowa — you might get those kind of boos."
A few days later, the real Miss Iowa threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park. On Tuesday, Strasburg was back in the ballpark, but he wasn't at his best.
NOTES: When Strasburg beat Florida on July 16, he threw six shutout innings. Tuesday marked the first time he was facing a big league club for a second time. ... Before the game, the Expos-turned-Nationals wore Montreal hats during batting practice, then celebrated Andre Dawson's recent induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The team also unveiled a Hall of Fame Ring of Honor at Nationals Park. Dawson, who played his first 11 seasons for the Expos, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Montreal catcher Gary Carter, also a member of the Hall. The franchise moved from Montreal to Washington before the 2005 season. ... Florida hadn't played since Saturday because of a rainout and a day off.