WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 17: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Florida Marlins at Nationals Park on September 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 K's, 0 BB, 61 pitches, 45 strikes, 7/6 GO/FO. 21 batters faced. You can't really ask for more than that from a 23-year-old starter in his third major league start on the way back from Tommy John surgery. In what was Strasburg's 15th career MLB start, he gave up just one run, scored by the opposing pitcher. Marlins' starter Chris Volstad used every mile per hour of the Nats' right-hander's 96 mph fastball to send a double to center in the top of the third Saturday night, and a sac bunt and sac fly brought him home for the only run Florida would score off Strasburg in 6.0 innings of work.
After throwing 57 pitches in three innings last time out, Strasburg was efficient on Saturday, throwing 13 in the first, 16 in the second, 8 in the third, 11 in the fourth, 5 in the fifth and 8 in his sixth and final inning of work tonight. "He was great," Davey Johnson said in the post game interview following the Nats' 13-inning loss to the Marlins, "He had a little chip on his shoulder when he went out there, and he wasn't really happy that the pitcher hit his fastball and he really pitched great. He still had a lot left, and I could've gone further. I could have gone another inning, but I figured six innings was plenty, and it was really fun watching."
As NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) pointed out on the Twitter last night, Strasburg has faced 50 batters in three starts since returning to the majors and he hasn't walked a single one. Include his minor league rehab starts and the 3 walks he issued to the 81 batters he faced there, and that's three walks to 131 batters over 34.1 IP (0.79 BB/9). While Davey Johnson said that was really amazing, Strasburg refused to buy into his own myth when the lack of walks was pointed out after the game. "I'm just trying to throw strikes," Strasburg told reporters after the game, "and walks are gonna happen, no one can go out there and throw the ball exactly where they want to every time."
Marlins' outfielder Mike Stanton, who was 3 for 5 with a double Friday night, entered play Saturday 28 for 82 in two seasons against the Nationals with seven doubles and nine HR's in 24 games. At Nats Park, the 21-year-old '07 2nd Round pick is 23 for 51 with all seven doubles and eight of his nine HR's against Washington hit in the nation's capital. In three at bats against Strasburg tonight, the Marlins' slugger saw seven pitches, all strikes, K'ing twice on 0-2 pitches. Strasburg blew Stanton away with a 99 mph 0-2 fastball upstairs in their first matchup, got him with a 90 mph 0-2 change the second time up and got a groundout with a first-pitch fastball the third time around.
"I was a little worried when he started out," Davey Johnson said, "He was really throwing hard, and he struck out [Stanton] around 99. I'd rather see him not pitch that high [in the zone], just have good location, he's still plenty hard, and had a great changeup tonight, [but] really didn't start using his other pitches until the fourth or fifth inning."
As for the fastballs upstairs, the 99mph heater he used to get Mike Stanton swinging in particular, Johnson reiterated what he had said earlier in the day when discussing Strasburg's tendency to "overthrow" at times.
"He never needed to do that earlier in his career," Johnson said, "but doing it up here it's another weapon, because he can stay right down at the knees, and then when he elevates, it's fun to watch, I know the fans love it, [but] as a manager I don't like to see it, because he elevates and adds to it. I would rather see him just move it inside, throw it about the same speed, but I'm sure that he has something else in mind."
Strasburg admitted that the high heater is not something he should be using often. "You look at all the good power pitchers, that's a part of their repertoire, and you can't just sit there and throw fastballs up every single time, cause if you miss a little bit down they're going to beat you, so you really have to pick your spots."
Strasburg struck out just three of the 21 batters he faced last night, got seven groundouts and three flyouts, and the right-hander seems to have embraced the pitch-to-contact philosophy. "I try to do that every time out, just sometimes you have trouble locating the fastball, sometimes you command it a little bit better."
"When the hitters early in the game are taking," Johnson explained, "and then as the game goes on they go after whatever they can lay some wood on, his ball had a lot of life tonight. I mean, his changeup was almost unhittable, throwing 97 then a 90 mph changeup, the bottom falls out."
Strasburg wasn't upset about being lifted when he was on Saturday, as he had reportedly been after just 3.0 innings of work in his last start. "They were swinging the bat early and I was able to get some quick outs and some quick innings," Strasburg said in his own post game interview, "and unlike that last time I was able to get out to the sixth instead of throwing a ton of pitches early." The right-hander's efficiency definitely helped him go further into the game, but asked if he could have thrown another inning, Strasburg said, "I'm going to go out until they tell me I'm done, bottom line."
Bottom line: Strasburg was dominant last night, and he's once again making believers out of everyone who sees him pitch just as he did before he was drafted no.1 overall in 2009.