Stephen Strasburg returned from his second stint on the Disabled List this season to throw four innings against the Philadelphia Phillies last week in Washington, D.C., giving up seven hits, a walk, and five earned runs, receiving no decision in what ended up an 8-7 win. It was his fastball velocity, which dropped as the outing went along, that raised concerns, after he suffered both shoulder and neck injuries that limited him to one start between June 8th and August 22nd.
He didn’t, however, have an explanation for the noticeable velo drop.
“I don’t really know,” Strasburg told reporters. “I mean I saw it too. I’d like to think that it’s — I don’t know if it’s rust, I think it’s just endurance. Hopefully that’s what it is.”
“I just thought he was tired,” manager Davey Martinez said.
“He came in after [the fourth] inning and we just said, ‘You’re done. You’re gassed.’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Perfect. Nice job.’”
Taking on the Phillies again tonight in Citizens Bank Park, Strasburg tossed two scoreless to start the game, as the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but two walks, a triple, and an RBI single in a 30-pitch third evened things up, 2-2.
Strasburg held the Phillies there as the Nats added two runs in the fourth and another in the sixth, 5-2, and he worked around a leadoff single by Wilson Ramos (with help from an assist by Adam Eaton, who cut the Philly catcher down at third on another hit), completing a quick, 11-pitch sixth that ended his outing after 99 pitches.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 99 P, 56 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
His velocity was pretty much the same as his last start, 94-95 mph on his four-seamer, (avg. 95.4 in 2018) and 93-94 on his two-seamer/sinker (avg. 94.8).
Strasburg told reporters after the game that it was another step and a start to grow on.
“It was progress,” he said, as quoted by MASNSports.com’s Byron Kerr. “So, it’s just a matter of getting ready for the next one now.”
“I thought he was great,” Davey Martinez said. “He didn’t have his 96-97, but he pitched and that was really encouraging to see. He battled.”
The first-year skipper visited Strasburg on the mound with two down in the Phillies’ half of the sixth, but let the right-hander remain in the game to record the final out.
“I went out there — we wanted to keep him around 100 pitches, so I just went out there and asked him if he had one more hitter in him and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll get you an out.’ I said, ‘Alright, here we go.’ So I’m proud to see him go out there and battle like that and get a win. That was a big win for him.”
It was Strasburg’s first win since May 27th, leaving him (7-7) after 16 starts, with a 4.15 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 25 walks (2.36 BB/9), and 111 Ks (10.48 K/9) in 95 1⁄3 IP.
Martinez was asked if he was concerned about the fact that in his first two starts back now, Strasburg hasn’t had his best stuff.
“I think it’s just more reps for him,” the Nationals’ manager said. “But he was very content that he went out there and like I said, he made some good pitches. His breaking ball was good, his changeup was good. So, like I said, he gave us exactly what we needed.”
Strasburg talked after the outing about making necessary adjustments against familiar opponents.
“There’s so many little things in the game that hitters try and pick up and stuff and you have to always look at, certain tendencies you do, and try not to do it,” Strasburg said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Colllier.
“Because they’re always looking for an advantage, trying to eliminate pitches.”
“He made some adjustments,” Martinez added. Strasburg made what he had work.
“When he needed to throw his fastball he did, but like I said his breaking ball was good and his changeup was good.”