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Stephen Strasburg And Nationals Wrap Season Up In Arizona

The Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks play the final series of the 2013 campaign this weekend in Chase Field. Stephen Strasburg makes his 30th start of the season tonight in the first game of three with the D-Backs.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg need 20 pitches to get through the first inning against the Miami Marlins last time out. He threw 30 pitches in the fourth, 17 of them strikes. Washington's 25-year-old right-hander ended his final start of the year in Nationals Park with a 23-pitch sixth inning, having given up six hits, two walks and three earned runs.

"You're probably not going to have as good a feel of your pitches, and just go out there and try to be as effectively wild as you can..." - Strasburg on pitching after a long layoff

Overall on the night he threw 109 pitches in a 5-4 win in which he received no decision. Before that start, Strasburg had been scratched from his previous two turns in the rotation with "right forearm stiffness," so fourteen days passed between his 28th and 29th starts of the 2013 campaign. He said after the game that the long layoff was an issue, but one of many different things you have to deal with as a major league starter.

"Stranger things are going to happen throughout my career," Strasburg told reporters, "and it's good to just roll with it and still go out there and do your job." His goal in such an outing, he explained, is to, "Not really get too frustrated," and know that, "you're probably not going to have as good a feel of your pitches, and just go out there and try to be as effectively wild as you can."

"I just want to go out there and give it everything I have and hopefully keep it close," Strasburg said. "We were able to do that today and get a win." The Nationals have won six of Strasburg's last eight starts. He's received just two decisions over that stretch, (2-0), in spite of holding opposing hitters to a .189/.259/.270 line while walking 13 (2.56 BB/9) and striking out 53 (10.45 K/9) in 45 2/3 IP over which he's given up 16 runs (15 ER), for a 2.96 ERA in August/September.

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Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said Strasburg was successful as he was last time out against the Marlins, simply because he has such good stuff even when he has issues with his command. "He had 12 days, didn't pitch," Johnson said, "but he's got such good stuff. When he gets the mindset that all he has to do is go after them and make his pitches and locate them, it doesn't matter how fast they are or whatever, he's going to be real dominant.

"But that wasn't vintage Strasburg tonight, for me."

"He was actually awful," Johnson said. "He was. I mean, every pitch he threw was up. He's got such great stuff, but everything was belt-high." - Davey Johnson on Stephen Strasburg's last start

Vintage Strasburg, in Johnson's mind, is the pitcher who struck out 10 and shut the Philadelphia Phillies out for his first career complete game shutout back on August 11th in Nationals Park. "I mean, that's going deep in games," Johnson said, "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 last start of the season in the nation's capital, and the three earned runs he surrendered, left him with a 1.73 ERA, 2.38 FIP, 18 walks (1.64 BB/9) and 108 Ks (9.82 K/9) in 99 IP in Washington in 2013, in which the no.1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft held opposing hitters to a .192/.244/.266 line. Away from D.C., however, he has a 4.68 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 36 walks (4.21 BB/9) and 79 Ks (9.23 K/9) in 77 IP in which opponents have posted a .219/.321/.362 line against the right-hander.

In his final start of the year tonight in Chase Field, Strasburg takes on the Arizona Diamondbacks. He faced them back on June 27th in Nationals Park, holding the D-Backs to six hits and two earned runs in seven innings of a 3-2 loss in which he received no decision. In three career starts against the D-Backs, the Nats' starter is (1-0) with a 2.00 ERA in 18 IP.

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