In his last two starts before Sunday’s in Miami, Washington Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg surrendered 12 hits, five of them home runs, four walks, and 10 earned runs in 10 innings, over which he struck out 11.
Three of the five home runs he allowed in those outings came in his start against the San Francisco Giants last week in the nation’s capital.
Going up against the Marlins in the series finale in South Florida, Strasburg, who had a (17-7) record and a 3.02 ERA in 31 career starts against the various incarnations of the Nationals’ NL East rivals’ roster, struck out nine of the 18 batters he faced over five scoreless innings in which he threw just 68 pitches as the Nats jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
He pitched up his 10th K from 19 batters faced in the first at bat of the Marlins’ sixth, with the strikeout giving him 41 career starts in which he’s reached double digits in strikeouts.
After working around a one-out walk in the seventh, a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth left the Nats’ starter at 104 pitches total, with 11 Ks from 27 batters faced over eight scoreless innings.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks, 104 P, 67 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
Strasburg led the way in a sweep-avoiding 5-0 win. It was his second scoreless appearance of the season, after he tossed 6 2⁄3 against the New York Mets without allowing a run in Citi Field earlier this month.
Overall (though their total pitch count is off, which is a weird trend we’ve seen this season), Brooksbaseball.net had Strasburg throwing 46 curveballs in the finale, and generating 13 swinging strikes with his breaking ball.
Stephen Strasburg, 92mph Fastball (called strike) and 87mph Changeup (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/Jxgxl9SHrY— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 21, 2019
He threw 18 changeups, with 13 swinging strikes on the pitch.
He threw just 41 fastballs total, 28 two-seamers, and 13 four-seamers, which sat 93-95 MPH on the day, generating just one swinging strike between them.
“I have a lot of trust in my curveball,” Strasburg told reporters when asked about leaning on the pitch. “So I think it’s — I get myself in trouble when I don’t throw it enough, and it really kind of sets up my other pitches, and it keeps them from ambushing as much off my fastball early in the count.”
“I just want to be aggressive with it,” he said of the offspeed stuff he relied on in Miami, “... aggressive with all my pitches, and I think they worked off each other very well today.”
“Everything was syncing up pretty good,” he said in assessing the outing as a whole, “so just trying to make some adjustments from the last outing, and it seemed to work.”
“He kept the ball down for the most part of the day, but his changeup was really good, he was throwing his curveball for strikes, and his fastball — he was locating his fastball really well,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the win.
Having both offspeed pitches working, Martinez said, was a key to Strasburg’s success.
“It opens up both sides of the plate for him, it really does,” the manager explained. “He was really, really good. I know he pitched good in New York, but he pitched just as good today.”
Strasburg was pitching so well, he apparently wanted to go back out in the ninth, even at 104 pitches. He headed straight down the tunnel after finishing the bottom of the eighth, which Martinez said might have been an attempt to avoid being told that he was done for the day.
“I think he wanted to go back out,” Martinez joked, “... but that was perfect, that’s what we needed... I just went down there with him and I said, ‘Great job.’”