Unbeaten in his last six starts at (6-0) with a 2.39 ERA, 10 walks, 44 Ks and a .224/.284/.315 line against in 37 2/3 innings pitched over that stretch, Stephen Strasburg took the mound trying to help the Washington Nationals avoid a sweep at home at the hands of the visiting Dodgers in Sunday afternoon’s series finale with Los Angeles in the nation’s capital.
Strasburg was coming off a scoreless, six-inning outing against the Colorado Rockies which was one of three scoreless starts in four appearances this month.
Going into today’s outing, the recently-turned 31-year-old right-hander was ranked 4th in the NL in total innings pitched (133 2⁄3 IP) and was providing the Nationals with consistent and consistently deep outings, going at least seven innings in eight of 21 starts this year, and at least seven in six of his previous 12 appearances.
“He’s been very consistent, and it’s been great,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his pregame press conference on Sunday afternoon.
“Gives us a chance to win every time he steps out on the mound, and that’s all you can ask.
“I hope that he goes out there and does his thing today again, I know he’s ready for the task, so let’s just go out there and support him and get some runs for him and go from there.”
Strasburg retired the first 13 Dodgers’ batters he faced before a single by A.J. Pollock with one out in the fifth ended the bid for a perfect game.
Pollock took second on an error on the hit, moved to third in the next at bat, and scored on a two-out RBI double to right field by the LA’s eight-hole hitter, Matt Beaty, who made it 1-0 after four and a half.
Strasburg took the mound in the sixth with a 3-1 lead, after Brian Dozier hit a two-run home run and Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a single in the bottom of the fifth, and retired the Dodgers in order, striking out the side in an 18-pitch frame that left him at 83 overall in the game.
After helping his own cause with a bases-loaded RBI single that drove in one of the four runs the Nationals scored in the bottom of the sixth inning, Strasburg came back in the seventh up 7-1, and worked around a hit batter in a 17-pitch frame which left him at 100 pitches total on the day.
That was it for Strasburg, who made it through seven innings for the ninth time in 22 starts this season, holding LA to just one run on two hits.
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 100 P, 62 S, 6/5 GO/FO.
Asked about his durability and stamina this season after the game, Strasburg that the work he did this winter and has continued to do this season has paid off thus far.
“Mechanically,” he explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, “some of the stuff I’ve been working on with (Pitching Coach Paul Menhart) in bullpen sessions, the repeatability part of it. Just getting in a good training program and just listening to the body and not trying to beat a dead horse when you need a little extra rest.”
“He’s been unbelievable, really,” his manager said after the Nationals’ sweep-avoiding 11-4 win over the Dodgers.
“Everything about him this year has been amazing. He takes the ball, the way he works, his attitude. He’s having fun. I just watched him dance, so it was kind of nice, but he’s having a good time and he’s going out there every fifth day and like I said he’s competing and giving us a chance to win.”
“He comes in on a Sunday day game, hot, and he does what he does against a very good opposing team, and a very good pitcher,” Martinez added.
“I can’t say enough about what Stephen means to this organization and our ballclub.”
Strasburg got 20 called strikes overall on the day, with a mix of his two-seamer (five called strikes), curveball (8), four-seamer (6), and change (1) and a total of five of the 13 swinging strikes on that changeup, including this absolutely filthy one:
Stephen Strasburg, Ridiculous 89mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/ilH4QrJq2L— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 28, 2019
His two-seamer was well-nigh unhittable too:
Stephen Strasburg, Unfair 94mph Two Seamer (w/ Tail). pic.twitter.com/0ge5BYbFwf— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 28, 2019
“When he mixes all his pitches,” Martinez began, “... and today his fastball was really, really good, and he had good movement on his fastball, but when he starts mixing in all his pitches like that and he’s able to throw them for strikes whenever he wants, he’s tough, and he competes and you’re up there as a hitter and it’s a tough at bat for anyone.”