LAS VEGAS — San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg (7-0) remains unbeaten, striking out 13 in the Aztecs' 15-4 win over UNLV in the opener of a three-game Mountain West Conference series. Strasburg increases his nation-leading strikeout total to 107 in a six-inning effort in which he allowed one earned run.
No. 18-ranked SDSU (24-11, 7-3 MWC) continues its offensive surge, collecting 15 hits against the Rebels (15-17, 4-6). SDSU catcher Erik Castro hit a three-run homer and had a game-high five RBI and teammates Easton Gust and Ryan O'Sullivan each collected three hits for the Aztecs.
LAS VEGAS — I thought they had a flyover for the national anthem, but I've never seen a 747 used for a flyover. No, we're in the flight path of McCarron International Airport. Nonstop landings. And it seems they use Earl E. Wilson Stadium here to line themselves up for landings. Will there be more pitches or planes tonight? It will definitely be close.
Anyway, San Diego State is here for a three-game Mountain West Conference series against UNLV. The No. 18-ranked Aztecs (23-11, 6-3 MWC) are tied atop the conference with TCU. UNLV (15-16, 4-5) has struggled ever since being swept by SDSU four weeks ago in the opening series of conference play.
SDSU's Stephen Strasburg (6-0) makes his eighth start of the season. Strasburg has a 1.49 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 10 walks in 48.1 innings pitched.
The game time temperature is pleasant enough at 62 degrees (it's expected to drop to 54), but a strong southwest wind is blowing from behind the stadium and out to center field.
HERE WE GO
1ST INNING — Brandon Meredith reaches on a two-out error, but Erik Castro strikes out to end any opportunity of mounting a threat.
Strasburg starts UNLV leadoff hitter J.J. Sferra with a strike, but then Sferra parachutes a single into short left field. Teammate Bryan Resnick sacrifices Sferra over to second with a bunt down the first base line. Strasburg then registers his first strikeout of the game, getting Jarred Frierson with a curveball. Strasburg goes 3-2 to Ryan Thornton (seemingly squeezed on ball three by plate umpire Jason Rogers), but gets Thornton looking at strike three on an inside fastball to end the inning.
2ND INNING — SDSU's Josh Chasse doubles just inside the third base bag off UNLV starting pitcher Jeff Urlaub, scoring teammate Mitch Blackburn with the game's first run. Blackburn led off the inning with a walk and moved down to second on an error. Easton Gust's single up the middle and Ryan O'Sullivan's double to right-center score two more runs to make it 3-0. It's a substantial lead, considering Strasburg hasn't given up more than two runs in any of his starts this season.
First-pitch swinging works wonders as UNLV's Rance Roundy singles and teammate Brian Gilbertson follows with a run-scoring double to make it 3-1. Strasburg restores order thereafter, sandwiching an infield out around two strikeouts to retire the side without further damage.
I've seen Strasburg's fastball touch 97 mph on one of the radar guns here, but he's using far more curves and sliders tonight than earlier in the season. Changing his approach is no surprise, really, given that UNLV saw Strasburg just four weeks ago.
3RD INNING — The Aztecs strand runners at first and third.
Strasburg starts bring more heat, making his other pitches even more effective. He strikes out Sferra on a ball in the dirt and gets Resnick looking. It is Strasburg's 100th strikeout of the season. Frierson throws his bat at a ball that he pokes up the middle for a single. Frierson is erased stealing a few moments later on a throw by catcher Erik Castro that arrives a few minutes before the runner.
4TH INNING — One of the things impressive about SDSU's offense this season is that the players have put the pressure on the opposition. It's been the other way around much of the time in recent years. It pays off here as Gust and O'Sullivan reach with singles and Pat Colwell follows with a good bunt down the first-base line. Just put the all in play and make them make a play. Urlaub overthrows first base, Gust scores, O'Sullivan moves to third and then he, too, scores on a sacrifice fly to right field by Meredith. Colwell then steals second and scores on Castro's single to center. It's 6-1 Aztecs and Urlaub's day is done.
Roundy gets a two-strike single off Strasburg with one out. A strikeout and a fly out make it moot.
5TH INNING — The Aztecs put two runs on against reliever Corey Hales, who gives way to Justin Baca, whogives up two RBI singles and a three-run homer to Castro. Castro lifted the ball into the air in right-center and let the jet stream do the rest for his seventh home run of the season.
I'm wondering if Strasburg will be taken out of his rhythm after sitting in the dugout so long at the top if the inning, but he strikes out Anthony Morel looking to open the inning. Chad Claus then bunts down the third-base line for a base hit and Sferra follows with a sharp single. But Resnick strikes out looking and Frierson strikes out swinging and that is that. The Frierson strikeout is Strasburg's 10th of the game, giving him double-digit strikeouts for the seventh time in eight starts.
The PA announcer reminds fans that no flash photography is allowed at UNLV. It seems some of them came to get a look and a photo of Strasburg. A good crowd begins to thin, having gotten a glimpse of the nation's top pitcher and seeing enough to know the Rebels aren't coming back from an 11-1 deficit.
6TH INNING — SDSU scores fur runs on only two hits, helped by passed balls and wild pitches to build a 15-1 lead.
Strasburg walks one but also strikes out the side, giving him 13 strikeouts for the game. He is approaching 100 pitches and likely done for the game.
Strasbug's line — 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 SO. He now has 107 SO/11 BB in 54.1 IP
7TH INNING — The Aztecs are retired in order — thanks to a double play — then Matt Skipper replaces Strasburg on the mound. The trickle of fans leaving picks up, leaving family and friends in the stands.
8TH INNING — Nothing of note.
9TH INNING — The game is all but decided but UNLV drags it out by getting to Skipper, forcing the Aztecs to go to the bullpen again and bring in Kegan Sharp to get the final out.