Stephen Strasburg was so successful against Philadelphia last week, Matt Williams explained, because he had control of his fastball, he was changing speeds with it, sitting 92-93 and dialing it up when necessary.
"I think for me, that makes his changeup even more effective," Williams said.
"He threw it for strikes when he wanted to. Out of the zone when he needed to. I don't know if I've seen him better than that."
"I think when he throws hard and he sits at 95 or 96, the changeup isn't necessarily for a strike. So if the opposing team can recognize that then they don't swing at it. Today he threw it for strikes when he wanted to. It just adds more to his repertoire. More weapons for him. Curveball for strikes too, elevated when he needed to. He was really good."
"It's difficult when he's throwing them all for strikes," Williams continued.
"He did today. He could throw first-pitch curveball. He threw a couple of first-pitch changeups for strikes. All of those add to it. As a hitter, you stand in there and go, 'He's throwing them all for strikes, I need to be agressive.'
"They get behind. They early-swing. If they're not swinging, they take it and it's a strike and it's important. His ability to throw all of them for strikes is important for him going forward, because he can throw any of them at any point and get himself a -- steal a strike from that count."
When Strasburg "struggled" on Saturday against the Marlins in Miami, Williams said, after the 8-0 loss in which the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick allowed four earned runs in six innings, it was because he didn't have command of his entire repertoire.
"Much better fastball today than last time out," Williams told reporters.
"But not as much control of the changeup and curveball today. When he's got all three of them working he's tough. Today he really only had one of them that he could rely on. So, not bad though, gave us a chance."
The first big hit off Strasburg came in the bottom of the fourth when Giancarlo Stanton tore into a 95 mph 1-1 fastball from Strasburg and lined it to left field for an RBI double that put the Marlins up, 1-0.
Justin Bour drove Stanton in with a single to right on a 95 mph first-pitch fastball.
Williams was asked if Strasburg's lack of command on his offspeed stuff led to him throwing more fastballs early in the count.
"With any pitcher it leads to that," he said. "If he doesn't have feel for it, he doesn't want to get behind for sure. But I thought he had a really good fastball. 95-to-96 mph fastball today. Just wasn't enough for us, so we've got to go get them tomorrow."
Strasburg walked Stanton (who was 2 for 2 in the first two at bats) the third time they met up and Stanton ended up scoring when Bour went down for a fastball outside and shot it back up the middle to make it 3-0. The fourth run Strasburg gave up scored on a double play grounder off J.T. Realmuto's bat.
Stanton improved to 12 for 30 career vs Strasburg with six doubles, three home runs, five walks and 10 Ks in 35 plate appearances. Why has he been so successful against Strasburg?
"I think that the ball that he hit down the line for the double for the first run was in, but not in-in," Williams said.
"It's a different pitcher than [Jordan Zimmermann], certainly," Williams explained.
Zimmermann held Stanton hitless in three at bats last night, striking him out with a slider off the plate outside in the first at bat, popping him up the second time they met and retiring the Marlins' slugger on a fly in their final matchup.
Stanton's 0 for 3 vs Zimmermann left him 7 for 29 (.241/.353/.586) vs Zimmermann with a double, three triples, five walks and nine Ks in 34 PAs.
"[Zimmermann] is more slider," Williams said. "Strasburg is more curveball. But with anybody, especially somebody like Giancarlo, if you're not commanding well, he can get you."
Williams was also asked about a scene that played out in the Nationals' dugout after an error on a potential double play grounder extended the inning and after Strasburg allowed the two runs to score in the fourth.
MASN's cameras caught Strasburg and Nats' pitching coach Steve McCatty having an "animated" conversation, as it was described on the broadcast.
Williams said he wasn't aware of that the conversation even took place.
"Nothing that I know of," he said. "There was nothing that we're aware of."
Strasburg told reporters, including MASN's Chris Johnson, that the conversation was between the two of them and declined to share the details:
"That's something that's gonna be kept between me and Cat," Strasburg said. "Obviously, I'm a competitive person. It's nothing that he did. It was nothing I did. It was nothing anybody did. It was just maybe a little bit of frustration. I'm just gonna leave it at that."
Strasburg ended the outing with a (1-2) record on the year, a 4.88 ERA, 2.78 FIP, seven walks (2.63 BB/9) and 23 Ks (8.63 K/9) in four starts and 24 IP.
The Nationals dropped their fourth straight to fall to 7-11 overall after eighteen games.