In five June starts, 25-year-old Washington Nationals' righty Stephen Strasburg put up a 5.04 ERA and a 3.46 FIP in 30 ⅓ innings pitched. Opposing hitters posted a combined .282/.305/.492 line against the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick.
Strasburg talked after his 17th outing of the year, a brief 4 ⅔ inning start in Milwaukee's Miller Park in which he gave up eight hits, three walks, two home runs and four runs total, about his mechanics being off, causing him to rush his delivery and leave the ball up in the zone.
He and pitching coach Steve McCatty said before Tuesday's start in Nationals Park that they found the problem and Strasburg believed going in that the fix would result in better command of his fastball.
Against a depleted Rockies' lineup on Tuesday night, Strasburg threw 7 ⅔ scoreless before second baseman DJ LeMahieu hit a hanging curve out to left-center for a solo blast and the only run the Nats' starter allowed.
After issuing the first walk he allowed in a two-out at bat with Corey Dickerson, Strasburg was replaced on the mound having surrendered five hits to the 28 batters he faced. Strasburg struck out eight and induced ten groundouts.
"I think strike one is probably the biggest difference," Matt Williams said when asked what changed for the righty this time out.
"Got ahead of a lot of hitters tonight. His curveball was effective, his changeup was effective, went deep in the game. He threw a lot of pitches, but he was in command. I think that's the biggest difference. He didn't fall behind guys. And for him, that's important. It's important for everybody, but especially for him."
Strasburg also worked at a more deliberate pace, though Williams explained that he thought that was more of a reaction to the weather in the nation's capital than an attempt to slow things down on the mound.
"I think the weather probably had the most impact on that," the first-year skipper said.
"He was going to the rosin bag a lot. It's hot out there and he's sweating and trying to get a grip for every pitch is probably the reason he was slower tonight. But he went to the rosin bag a lot. I think that's probably the biggest factor. But he was focused. He was throwing it where he wanted to throw it. Like I said, he was in command of his pitches all night."
Strasburg finished the seventh at 96 pitches, but Williams sent him back out to the mound since he was on a roll, retiring 9 of the last 10 batters he faced before the eighth and after a two-out single by Wilin Rosario in the fourth.
"He's got a shutout going until his last inning," Williams said, "so you want to take him as far as you can take him. He was a little limited last time out, he was in the 80s last time. But any time anybody has got a shutout going like that, we've seen it with [Jordan Zimmermann] this year, trying to push him through the eighth and preserve that. [DJ] LeMahieu got a curveball and took care of that in the last inning, but I thought he pitched really well."
Strasburg was, however, seen examining his hand on the mound late in the outing and in the dugout after he was done.
"He's got a little bit of an irritation there from throwing curveballs," Williams told reporters. "That's part of the deal when it gets hot and humid. But he's just got a little bit of an irritation on his thumb, but he should be fine."
Strasburg earned the win in the Nats' 7-1 victory, leaving him (7-6) with a 3.53 ERA, a 2.78 FIP, 24 walks (1.92 BB/9) and 131 Ks (10.50 K/9) in 112 ⅓.