Yes, Stephen Strasburg grew up watching Jake Peavy pitch for the San Diego Padres. Yes, the two are friendly. Yes, they live near one another in San Diego, apparently. But the Washington Nationals' 26-year-old right-hander isn't so in awe of the veteran right-hander he grew up watching that he's going to have any problem going out to the mound today and beating one of his childhood idols.
"Yeah, I've met him him a few times," Strasburg told reporters on Thursday who asked him about facing the San Francisco Giants' right-hander in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS in the nation's capital.
"He's a great guy, a great competitor. And obviously growing up in San Diego I got a chance to see him do some special things for the Padres. It's tremendous opportunity and I think I'm just excited for getting a chance to pitch in the postseason. It doesn't really matter who I'm facing."
Peavy is ready too, and looking forward to his fourth postseason run.
"I am a big Stephen [Strasburg] fan," Peavy said in his own pre-NLDS press conference.
"We talk and shoot texts back and forth. You know we wish each other well. For tomorrow, it will be different. I will be trying to beat him with everything I've got. He will be doing the same."
Strasburg made two starts against the Giants this season, giving up a run on four hits in six innings of work in a 9-2 win in AT&T Park in early June, but when he faced San Francisco in Nationals Park on August 24th, things didn't go as well.
In just four innings of work, he was knocked around, surrendering eight hits, two walks and five earned runs before he was lifted in what ended up a 14-6 Nationals' win.
After concentrating for several outings on pounding hitters inside, the command wasn't there against the Giants and he was hit hard, forcing his teammates to pick him up.
"Today he didn't get it there," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said of Strasburg working inside. "If it's not in, it's middle. He threw some good fastballs down and away to the right-handers today. But he also missed location a few times and they got him. That's part of pitching, it happens."
In six starts since that outing, however, Strasburg turned things around on the mound, posting a 1.13 ERA, three walks (0.68 BB/9) and 40 Ks (9.08 K/9) in 39 ⅔ IP in which he held opposing hitters to a .197/.220/.285 line.
Was there something in particular that happened in that start against the Giants that helped the right-hander figure things out?
"I wouldn't say there was anything in particular," Strasburg said. "I think if I go out there and just compete, I'm going to be okay. I can sleep well at night. I can't really worry about whether I'm missing a spot or one side. It's nice to recognize that, but I can't really go out there and beat a dead horse with it. I have to pitch to my strengths and make them adjust to my game."
The adjustments Strasburg made after that outing and the success he enjoyed down the stretch were behind the decision to give the 2009 no.1 overall pick the start in Game 1 of the NLDS.
"Over the last month, everybody has been really good," Williams told reporters on Thursday. "They've pitched really well. And so Stephen in particular has gotten stronger as this month has gone on. His fastball velocity has ticked up each month during the course of the season and we all forget that he had some surgery last offseason, and it took him some time to get back to where he really wanted to be and I think he's proven that over the last four-to-six weeks that he feels good. His location has been good. He's healthy and strong and he's looking forward to this opportunity.
"All those things combined contributed to the decision."
Strasburg's ready for his first posteason start. He didn't want to talk about being held out of the postseason in 2012 when asked yesterday, but he said he was ready to take the mound in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS.
"Just talking to guys who have been in this position before, obviously this is brand new for me. They all say it's just still the same game. You've still got to go out there and focus on things that you can control and that's making sure that before you throw each pitch that you're locked in and you know what you want to do with it."
Five years after he was drafted and two years after he was shut down, Strasburg finally gets a chance to lead the Nationals into the postseason.