Sixty-six of Stephen Strasburg's 108 pitches on Sunday were four-seam fastballs which averaged 96.5 mph and got up to 98.1 mph. He threw 39 of the 66 for strikes that weren't put in play, mixed in 23 curves, 14 changeups and five two-seamers and struck out 10 batters, reaching double-digits in Ks for the third straight game with 37 total over his last three outings, which, the Washington Nationals noted on Twitter, set a franchise record for strikeouts in a three-start stretch.
In ten starts before the series finale with the Miami Marlins and since he returned from a DL stint for neck stiffness on June 23rd, with a month off for an oblique strain (July 4 through August 8), Strasburg went (6-2) with a 2.07 ERA, nine walks (1.33 BB/9), 80 Ks (11.80 K/9) and a .167/.200/.306 line against in 61 IP.
Once he was done with seven innings on the mound in which he gave up six hits and two runs, one earned, he had a 1.99 ERA, ten walks (1.32 BB/9) and 90 Ks (11.91 K/9) in 68 innings over his last eleven outings and a 3.81 ERA, 24 walks (1.91 BB/9) and 135 Ks (10.72 K/9) in 113 ⅓ innings over that stretch.
Before the game, a 13-3 win over the Marlins, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo discussed Strasburg's bounce back from his early-season issues with MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette, talking about what's different for the right-hander during his recent run of successful outings.
"I think it's health," Rizzo said. "He started off the season poorly with the ankle injury, and the ankle injury affected him more than we thought it would, more than he thought it would. It was really a precursor to all the back spasm stuff he had.
"Thank god he didn't change his mechanics and arm angle to the point that he would hurt his arm because of his ankle. But the ankle had a huge part in his early struggles.
"He was never right out of Spring Training to have his mechanics down, which affected his command."
"His mechanics -- as we looked into the films and the videos -- were way off," Rizzo continued.
"His stride leg and his land leg weren't the same and it was affecting his command.
"Once he went on the Disabled List for the side that he had and we let his ankle finally heal, fully heal, he was the old Strasburg and the guy we had seen for the previous three years and he's pitching extremely well right now."
"Even before I pulled my oblique I felt like my mechanics, I was making improvements with it," Strasburg said after the start.
"Getting in the right direction, so that was kind of a freak thing, but obviously my arm feels strong at this point, just not having the innings that I would hope for."
Asked about Strasburg's 37/3 K/BB ratio in his last three outings, Nats' skipper Matt Williams said that the key was his fastball command.
"When he was dealing with the issues and being uncomfortable out there it wasn't as easy for him to throw it where he wants to, but since he's been back and healthy and feeling good, curveball has been good.
"Changeup has been good. But it all starts with fastball and he's been able to control it, both sides of the plate."
Strasburg said fastball command was just a part of it.
"I'm sure there's been games in the past in my career where it's probably been better location-wise and they've just hit it, good piece of hitting," he said.
"But I think it's just more the sequencing and just the approach that [Wilson Ramos], myself and [pitching coach Steve McCatty] have come up with and I've been able to keep them off balance."