Stephen Strasburg took the mound Sunday afternoon in the nation's capital with a (6-2) record, a 2.62 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 13 walks (1.48 BB/9), 102 Ks (11.62 K/9) and a .241/.280/.353 line against in 12 starts and 79 IP at home in Nationals Park this season.
On the road in 2014, the Washington Nationals' 26-year-old, '09 no.1 overall pick was (1-7), with a 4.68 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, 19 walks (2.62 BB/9), 65 Ks (8.95 K/9) and a .282/.338/.451 line against in 65 ⅓ IP on the road.
After Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings in the series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies, walking one and striking out 10, Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked if there was any way to explain the stark difference between the right-hander's home and road splits.
"I don't think there's any reason for it," Williams responded. "Certainly comfort level here. He knows the mound every time he goes out. He knows the bullpen, he knows his routine. There's no reason why. I just think that's the way it's happened."
As for what led to his success against the Phillies, Williams said it was Strasburg's ability to establish his fastball and throw his offspeed stuff for strikes.
"Lots of curveballs today," the first-year manager said. "Really good curveballs, early in the count to get strike one and good fastball command as well. Probably the best fastball command I've seen him have all year today. And the ability to throw a breaking ball at any time certainly keeps hitters off-balance. So I think he pitched really well."
As Williams has explained repeatedly this season, Strasburg's fastball command is a key to his success.
"I think that's the key with anybody," Williams explained, "but certainly him. It's important for him to be able to spot the fastball down and away to the right-hander. Had a bunch of lefties in the lineup today, he did it as well, down and away to the left-hander and threw a lot of curveballs. Probably more curveballs and changeups today.
"That's a feel for pitching. He goes out there and understands that if he can throw a curveball early for a strike then he can open up his game and he did it today."
Strasburg's outing was the third straight seven-inning start for the Nationals, who got seven innings out of Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann in the second and third games of the four-game series against the Phillies after Gio Gonzalez struggled and was lifted after just 3 ⅓ on Thursday night.
"They're all pitching very well," Williams said when asked if Strasburg was still the leader of the rotation and the top guy in the staff.
"From a starting perspective, everybody has given us a chance to win every day. But yeah, Stephen is the guy we went to the first day of the season. He's the guy we went to after the break and he's proven why he's a really good pitcher. The last two outings have been really, really good."
Strasburg finished the game at 99 pitches in seven innings, a fairly-efficient 14+ pitches per frame. He retired the first seven batters he faced and 14 of the first 16 overall. He allowed just one extra base hit and one walk and struck out four of the last seven batters he faced. So when did he realize just how well his stuff was working?
"I don't know," Strasburg said. "I don't really look into that too much. I just want to go out there and just make good pitches. I thought [Jose Lobaton] called a great game and he worked real hard back there for me and it was great for us to put a few more runs on the board and just a good team win."
The Nationals' starter made a 1-0 lead hold up through seven and in the bottom of the eighth they finally got to the Phillies' bullpen once Cole Hamels was off the mound.
Did the idea of going head-to-head with Hamels inspire Strasburg's effort?
"No," he said. "I'm just trying to focus on what I can control and that's just trying to execute pitches and focus on that."
What he's focused on, according to the pitcher himself, is consistency.
"Just trying to get more consistent with all my pitches and locate them a little bit better. And when you can do that it's easier to execute the game plan."
The win over the Phillies this afternoon left Strasburg (8-9) on the year with a 3.39 ERA, a 2.74 FIP, 33 walks (1.96 BB/9) and 177 Ks (10.53 K/9) in 151 ⅓ IP.