Stephen Strasburg gave up three runs (on two home runs) over the first two innings of his start in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Dodger Stadium, then he held the Dodgers off the board through the sixth inning before his teammates rallied, and tied things up in the eighth, then won it in extra innings to advance to the NLCS.
“He was phenomenal and he did settle down,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the win over the Dodgers. “After that first inning I saw a guy that just said, you know what, I’m just going to go out there and control the game, and did he that. He threw up four zeros for us and kept us in the game and that’s what we needed.”
The outing left the Washington Nationals’ 31-year-old, ‘09 No. 1 overall pick with a 1.32 ERA in six games, five starts, and 35 postseason innings pitched in his career, with five walks, 45 Ks, and a .203/.238/.285 line against in those outings.
Stephen Strasburg, Changeup God. pic.twitter.com/1iaAYPwEVq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 15, 2019
In three games (two starts) and 15 IP this season, Strasburg had a 2.40 ERA, one walk, 21 Ks, and a .204/.214/.370 line against going into last night’s start.
Strasburg watched both Aníbal Sánchez (7 2⁄3 IP, 1 H, 0 R) and Max Scherzer (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER) dominate the Cardinals in each of the first two games, so going into his start, did he see or pick up anything that he could apply to his outing?
“I think they controlled the tempo of the game very well,” Strasburg told reporters over the weekend in St. Louis.
“They had a lot of poise out there. Just seems like they were just playing catch out there. It’s easier said than done, but they had everything working and they made it look really easy.”
Strasburg tossed three scoreless to start Game 3 of the NLCS, on 46 pitches, and he came back out for the top of the fourth inning with a 4-0 lead, and worked around two singles in what ended up a 20-pitch frame that left him at 66 total after four.
Strasburg worked around a one-out single in a scoreless 14-pitch fifth, and came back out with a 6-0 lead in the sixth and retired the Cardinals in order in a 10-pitch frame which left him with nine Ks and 90 pitches total after six scoreless.
It was 7-0 in the seventh, when Strasburg ran into a little trouble, with back-to-back singles by José Martínez and Yadier Molina starting the frame before a one-out liner to left by Paul DeJong resulted in the Cardinals’ first run coming across when Juan Soto slipped as he tried to throw it in, then threw wildly through the infield when he recovered his footing, allowing a run to score, 7-1.
Stephen Strasburg, 93mph Fastball and 88mph Changeup, Overlay (slow) pic.twitter.com/ZNfSoWCFWO— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 15, 2019
Strasburg struck the next two batters out in what ended up being 27-pitch frame which left him at 117 pitches total with 12 Ks from 28 batters faced. That was it for his outing...
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 Ks, 117 P, 84 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
Strasburg finished the night with an impressive 16 swinging strikes, 12 with his changeup, and a ridiculous 26 called strikes, 15 of them with his curveball, in a dominant outing that put the Cardinals in a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven series.
“These guys,” Martinez said of his starters through three games after the win, “they started with Sánchez, Scherzer, and now tonight Stras. They’re feeding off each other, they really are, and it’s fun to watch.”
Fun to watch ... but boring to play behind? That’s what Anthony Rendon said after the game, sort of jokingly.
“It’s amazing watching him,” Rendon said.
“It can get kind of boring when he’s striking everybody out. It’s definitely awesome. Like I said, I’ve been behind him for a long time now. Man, he just continues to go after hitters.
“He’s confident in every one of his pitches. He’ll throw to any count. It’s just awesome just to be behind him.”
Strasburg’s manager was asked what it is about his changeup that makes it fairly unhittable when it’s on.
“For me, anybody that has a good change-up, their arm action is really good,” he explained, “and his was really good today. He has the same tempo as he does with his fastball, and the ball at the end just disappears, and he was really good.
“But I think, honestly, what made it really good today was his fastball, utilizing his fastball at the right moment made his change-up that much better.”
“I think everything is off of your fastball,” Strasburg said. “Mechanically, if you execute your fastball, it’s really just a grip change. You’re doing the same exact thing.”
Stephen Strasburg, Legendary 88mph Changeup (release/spin axis). pic.twitter.com/xDonACTZc6— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 15, 2019
With the victory in Game 3, the Nationals are just one win away from the World Series.
The focus all year has been going 1-0 every day, a reporter noted, but do Strasburg and his teammates allow themselves to think about how close they are.
“You guys can,” he told reporters, “but right now, I think it’s been just such an amazing year, and I think it’s really been great just because of where we’ve had to come from. We’ve got such a great group of guys, and it’s fun. It’s fun being around the guys and going out there and competing together. I think you ask anybody in there, we just want to stay together and keep playing.”
Bonus Quote: Strasburg was asked about the post-start hug he got from Gerardo Parra and Aníbal Sánchez and how much love Parra has given him over the last weeks and months.
“Oh, yeah. I’m not much of a hugger, but they kind of just surround me. So I just have to take it.”