With two earned runs or fewer allowed in six of his last seven starts, Stephen Strasburg took the mound on Tuesday night in Atlanta, Georgia’s SunTrust Park, on a bit of a run, with a 2.19 ERA, 11 walks, 59 Ks, and a .185/.239/.238 line against in his last 49 1⁄3 IP on the mound.
Last time out before the start vs the Braves, the 30-year-old righty went seven innings on the road against the New York Mets in Citi Field, giving up three runs, two earned, in what ended up a 6-4 loss to the Nationals’ NL East rivals in which he received no decision.
Strasburg started strong in Washington’s first game of the season against Atlanta as well, with six strikeouts from the first ten batters he faced over three scoreless innings in which he threw just 41 pitches.
With the score 1-0 Nationals after three and a half, a hit-by-pitch on Freddie Freeman and a string of three straight singles (by Josh Donaldson, then Nick Markakis, and Austin Riley, respectively) tied it up, before an intentional walk loaded the bases, and a sac fly to right off Brian McCann’s bat put the home team up by a run, 2-1 after four.
Stephen Strasburg, 87mph Changeup Release & Spin Axis/Slow pic.twitter.com/W1ey4CyF3c— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 28, 2019
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, it was 4-2 Nationals when Strasburg took the mound in the bottom of the sixth, and picked up two more Ks (for 10 total from 24 batters faced) in a 14-pitch frame that left him at 89 total after six innings on the mound.
A scoreless, 14-pitch seventh pushed Strasburg up to 103 pitches overall, with 11 strikeouts from 29 batters.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 Ks, 103 P, 66 S, 3/2 GO/FO.
Things got dicey late, with Kyle Barraclough giving up a two-run home run in the eighth, but Sean Doolittle locked down the ninth and the Nationals took the series opener, 5-4.
Though their total pitch count was off by one, BaseballSavant.com had Strasburg picking up 14 swinging and 21 called strikes in the outing.
“Stephen Strasburg set the tone,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after the win.
“Another great outing by him. He was awesome.”
“He’s been so good,” Doolittle said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Doughterty.
“And that was another reason it was really important for us to hold on tonight to get him that win, because he’s been outstanding for us.”
Strasburg finished the night with a (W, 5-3) record, a 3.19 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 20 walks (2.28 BB/9), and 98 Ks (11.16 K/9) in 12 starts and 79 IP.
“He’s done what he’s been doing his past few starts,” Howie Kendrick told MASN’s Alex Chappell after a 3 for 5 game in which he hit a double and home run that ended up the winning run.
“He’s been going out and giving us a chance to win,” Kendrick continued, “working down in the zone, and he didn’t give up a whole lot of runs today. He’s been really good for us lately, well, actually, all year, and what he’s been doing has been truly special.”
His manager said Strasburg’s success this season is just a continuation of what he did at the end of the 2018 campaign, when he returned from an IL stint and worked well with what he had as he tried to get back to 100%.
“I truly believe last year, in September, he learned how to pitch, and he learned how to use all his pitches,” Martinez said, “and [he] was very successful at the end there.
“Came back this year, and he’s doing the same thing. He doesn’t have to rely on a fastball.
“His changeup was great. His curveball was great. And he located his fastball when he needed to, so he’s having an unbelievable year, he really is, and it’s a testament to how hard — like I said, I spent the winter in Washington and watched him work out. He really worked out incredibly to get himself ready for this year.”
Through 12 starts this season, that hard work has paid off for the 2009 No. 1 overall pick.