In their pregame notes before Sunday afternoon's game with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals mentioned that in 29 career starts, when receiving three runs or more of support while he's in the game, 25-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg has gone (21-2). Make that (22-2).
The Nats gave their '09 no.1 overall pick a 3-0 lead early today with Jayson Werth singling in a run in the first and Wilson Ramos and Denard Span driving in runs in the fourth as the Nationals beat the Phillies 6-0 to sweep the three-game weekend set in Nationals Park. Strasburg went the distance, striking out 10 in his first career complete game shutout.
"It's something that you try to do every time out," Strasburg told reporters after he did it for the first time in his MLB career in his 68th major league start.
"I've learned how to go out there and get outs with less pitches," Strasburg said, after the 99-pitch, 10-K effort against the Phillies. "That's something that I set out trying to do at the start of the season here and I knew it was only going to be a matter of time where I was going to have one of these games where they hit it right to where we were playing and the defense made great plays."
Strasburg limited Philadelphia's hitters to just four hits and one walk in nine innings. Two doubles plays and a caught stealing kept the Phillies who did get on from ever reaching second base. An eight-pitch first, nine-pitch third, 10-pitch fourth, 11-pitch sixth, eight-pitch eighth and nine-pitch ninth helped him keep the pitch count down and stick around for nine innings for the first time. And it all started with an uncomfortable pregame bullpen.
"Honestly, I didn't feel good at all," Strasburg admitted, "I didn't really have good command in the bullpen. And I think when that's happened in the past I feel like I would try to just jam it down their throat and throw as hard as I can and I kind of learned that that didn't really get much accomplished, so, I think it just kind of helped me kind of take a step back and just really focus on being nice and easy and hitting my spots."
"He's always, ever since I had him in the Olympics," Davey Johnson said, referring once again to the time he and Strasburg spent with Team USA in China in 2008. "He's always showed great command of the strike zone with his fastball down in the zone and basically fastball, curve ball. I don't think he threw that many changeups today, it was basically fastball, curve ball, but he was both sides of the plate. When he's like that, I mean, he'll have low-pitch games. How many did he end up striking out, 12?"
"10," reporters said.
"I mean, that's going deep in games, low pitch counts and striking out that number. Instead of going up and trying to miss the bats, he was pretty much saying, 'Here, hit it.' Which is great."
Strasburg's thrown complete games before, of course. He threw a no-hitter at San Diego State University. But he'd never gone the distance in the majors. "It's definitely different doing it at the big league level," he explained. "You're definitely a lot more drained as the game goes on. And, like I said, defense played great, offense scored some runs and I was just able to go out there and pitch to contact."
Davey Johnson said the Phillies' hitters did their part to keep Strasburg around through nine. "I think what helped him is they started swinging at pitches early in the count," the Nats' skipper said, "and he was making quality pitches too, I don't know how many strikes to balls, but he was pounding the zone. But when he starts sniffing that goal line, I mean, he's amped up. I haven't seen him throw that hard all year, consistently."
In addition to the tough bullpen session before the game, there was a moment in the second, after Strasburg spiked a changeup to Domonic Brown, when it looked like might have suffered an injury. He had. But it wasn't a bad one.
"We were concerned, when we went out during the game, that it was something with his arm," Johnson admitted, "but it was -- he had a little, kind of a -- when he flies open he tweaked the groin area. If he didn't fly open it didn't bother him. And obviously it didn't bother him. Still throwing very hard there at the end, what did he end up with, 102 [pitches] or something?
"99," reporters said.
So what did Strasburg say during the second inning mound meeting that assuaged any concerns?
"He said, basically, if he flies open it bothers him, so he's going to try not to keep flying open.
"But it was scary. And I think about the fifth, when he kind of fell off to the left, he kind of flied open, I think it was more losing his footing there. But you expect more of those from him, with his talent."
The Nats' starter would like to do it more often too. "It's a good feeling," Strasburg said. "But there's still a long way to go and I'm not satisfied. I'd like to go out there with the same mindset as I did today and see how deep I can go in the next game."
More from Federal Baseball:
- Game 117 WPA: Don't tell me how it ends. Nats 6, FF 0
- Stephen Strasburg With A Complete Game Shutout; Nationals 6-0 Over Phillies For The Sweep
- Nationals Sweep Three-Game Set With Phillies With 6-0 Win; Stephen Strasburg Dominates Phillies
- Nationals' Sunday Lineup: Stephen Strasburg vs PHI; + Game Notes
- Davey Johnson On Nationals' Taylor Jordan: "I Don't Think He Knows How Good His Stuff Is Yet."