WASHINGTON, DC: Before his second consecutive start against the Philadelphia Phillies in Friday’s series opener in Nationals Park, Stephen Strasburg was (1-0) with a 3.21 ERA, 2.02 FIP, three walks (1.93 BB/9) and 11 Ks (7.07 K/9) in 14 innings pitched on the year.
He held the Phillies to three runs on five hits in seven innings of work last weekend in Citizens Bank Park, earning his first decision of the season in the Nats’ only win in the three-game set.
This time around, Strasburg went seven innings again, giving up five hits, two walks and two earned runs while striking out eight in a 111-pitch effort, but he received no decision in what ended up a 3-2 win when Daniel Murphy hit a walk-off double in the tenth.
The decision to throw from the stretch exclusively this season apparently hasn’t hurt the 2009 No. 1 overall pick thus far in 2017.
“He’s throwing great,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.
“His velocity is up a tick from last year, even from the stretch. He simplified his delivery.
“I’ve seen this as a trend with a lot of starting pitchers, you’ll see these mock windups, or almost from the stretch with a lot of starting pitchers nowadays, especially young starting pitchers.
“It eliminates the mechanical difficulties of being consistent with your arm slot and your arm angle and simplifying the deliveries is kind of the in thing.
“Stras has done it. He thinks it’s going to keep him in sync more. Stuff is great. His velocity is good. He’s pitched extremely well for us.”
“He’s getting used to it and we’re getting used to seeing it,” Dusty Baker said when asked for his thoughts on the change for Strasburg before Friday’s start.
“If he goes out of the windup, we’re all going to be shocked. Whatever works for him.
“It doesn’t matter to me. He can stand on his head if he can get people out. I don’t make any big deal out of it.
“The more he does it, then the more he’ll get used to it, and a better rhythm he’ll get overall in the long-run.”
Friday afternoon in the nation’s capital, the 28-year-old right-hander gave up a two-out solo home run in the second, on a 95 mph 1-0 fastball to Tommy Joseph that cleared the center field fence (402 ft+).
With the score 1-1 in the fifth, Cameron Rupp jumped on a first-pitch curve and hit a double off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right, then scored two outs later on a dribbler back up the middle off Cesar Hernandez’s bat as the Phillies reclaimed the lead, 2-1.
Strasburg came back out for a seventh inning of work at 98 pitches and retired the Phillies in order in a 13-pitch frame that left him at 111 pitches overall, completing seven innings for the third straight start.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 111 P, 75 S, 9/1 GO/FO.
“We were discussing it and Stras really wanted it,” Baker explained, when asked if it was a tough decision to send Strasburg out for that final inning of work.
“It wasn’t hot out, it was cool. It was the first time I’ve seen Stras break a sweat and he was sharp from the beginning, sharp with his breaking ball and sharp with his location on his fastball, so he said he was fine, Stras has been honest with us the whole time. No, it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision.”
“Just going out there and I’m going to go until they take the ball out of my hands,” Strasburg said when asked about the final inning of work.
He ended the night with a 3.00 ERA, a 2.48 FIP, five walks (2.14 BB/9) and 19 Ks (8.14 K/9) in 21 IP.
Asked how he approached facing a team twice in a short period of time, Strasburg said he didn’t really change much.
“Try not to over-think it too much,” he explained. “I think it’s just, what worked last time, maybe adding in a couple different things, but for the most part, just got to make some good pitches and the results are going to be what they’re going to be.”