The 31-year-old righty went (18-6) in 33 starts, with a 3.32 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, 56 walks (2.41 BB/9), and 251 Ks (10.81 K/9) in 209 innings pitched.
“What an unbelievable year he’s had,” Martinez told reporters, “... and what he’s meant to us getting here. This guy has been the rock, he really has. [Max] Scherzer -- I could speak volumes of [Aníbal] Sánchez, but he’s been the constant. Guy that goes out there and gives us a chance to win every five days.”
Through four postseason appearances, three of them starts, the Nationals’ ‘09 No. 1 overall pick was (3-0) with a 1.64 ERA, a 1.53 FIP, one walk (0.41 BB/9), and 33 Ks (13.50 K/9) in 22 innings going into last night’s start against the Astros in Game 2 of the Fall Classic.
Scherzer talked, after earning the win in the series opener, about going into the second game with Strasburg on the mound.
Stephen Strasburg, 95mph Fastball and 83mph Curveball, Overlay pic.twitter.com/blW5rZsJS9— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 24, 2019
“He’s been throwing the living daylights out of the ball,” Scherzer said.
“What he can do with his fastball, curveball, changeup, it’s great. And he’s been on such a run. We’re going to need more of him, we absolutely believe in him, and it should be a fun matchup tomorrow night.”
Martinez talked in his pregame presser before Game 2 about the confidence that Strasburg pitches with being another big factor in his success.
“He definitely has an unbelievable amount of confidence,” the manager said. “He competes, not only as you guys will see him every five days, I see him every day. He’s constantly trying to get better, and he competes with himself to get himself better.”
“My biggest thing with him,” Martinez added, “is that he stayed healthy all year. And like you said, he’s pitching the best I’ve ever seen him pitch.”
A few questions later, a reporter wondered what exactly the manager meant when he said that Strasburg competes with himself?
“He’s constantly trying to get better,” Martinez explained. “He pushes himself to the max in the weight room, conditioning, different exercises. He wants to be the best every day. Not just, like I said, not just every five days; every day, and I can say that about all our starters, really. I mean, they push each other, they compete. And it’s a lot of fun to watch how they are day-in and day-out.”
Strasburg left a two-out, two-strike changeup over the middle and up in the zone to Alex Bregman in the bottom of the first inning last night, and Bregman crushed it, sending his first home run of the World Series out to left in Minute Maid Park and tying things up with the two-run blast after the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Strasburg held the Astros there through, working out of a two-on, one-out jam in a 28-pitch sixth that ended his outing, and one batter into the top of the seventh, the Nationals had a 3-2 lead after Kurt Suzuki took Justin Verlander deep to lead off the top of the inning, and they ended up winning 12-3.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 114 P, 71 S, 7/1 GO/FO.
Strasburg finished the night with 11 swinging strikes, two each on his four-seamer, curve, and two-seamer, and five with his changeup, and got 19 called strikes, 11 on his curve, six with his two-seamer, and two with his four-seamer, and he held the Astros to just four hits after surrendering three in the first inning.
“We pushed Strasburg pretty far,” A.J. Hinch said after the loss, and they almost got to him in the sixth, putting two on with one out in a 2-2 game before Strasburg popped up Carlos Correa on a 3-2 changeup and got pinch hitter Kyle Tucker looking with a high 3-2 curve to end the threat before Suzuki led off the seventh with his home run.
Suzuki said after the game that the 3-2 changeup to Correa, “was a big pitch for Stras.”
“He just -- any pitch any time. He’s got so many weapons to get you out with. He’s got command. He can really spin the ball. You never really know what pitch is coming, because he can throw any pitch up at any time. If he changes up his patterns we do a good job of sequencing right and it becomes tough for the hitters. I think in that situation right there runners in scoring position, a great hitter like Correa, you try not to give in. And we tried to change up our patterns. We had him a couple of times 3-2, and I think we went different ways each time. Tried to mix it up, popped it up, and it was great.”
Strasburg’s manager said there were signs of the right-hander’s maturity throughout the start.
“He’s become a premier pitcher, a big game pitcher,” Martinez said. “We’ve seen that. He doesn’t get rattled. He knows what he needs to do. He stays in the moment, which is huge for him. He doesn’t get overly excited when things happen. And he loves the big game. He really does.
“Again, you saw it tonight. He battled through some innings and got some huge outs for us.”
Strasburg said he knew it was going to be a battle going in, and he wasn’t surprised at how much of one it was.
“You kind of know that going into the game, and I wouldn’t expect anything less, so we’ve had to fight for a while now so we’re just going to keep doing that,” he told reporters.
Suzuki said he was impressed with the way Strasburg moved on from the rough first and did what he could to keep things tied until the offense could strike.
“Stras, obviously the little hiccup there in the first. Made a good pitch. You tip your hat, the guy is a great hitter and he hit it out,” Suzuki said.
“But the thing about Stras is he’s really grown in that way where he don’t let things like that bother him.
“He just moves on to the next pitch, gets the next out, moves on, gave us five shutout after that, gave us a chance to win the ball game. And it was great.”
And now going back to Washington for Games 3-5 with a 2-0 lead?
“It’s — there’s another game,” Strasburg said. “And we’re not going to change what we’ve been doing all year, and everybody can talk about it, but we know what we’re up against, and we’re just going to keep our heads down and keep playing as hard as we can.”