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Stephen Strasburg finishes strong; Nationals sweep Phillies; What’s next for Strasburg?

Stephen Strasburg finished the 2019 campaign with career highs in strikeouts and wins ... What does the future hold?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In four starts this month, Stephen Strasburg had put up a 2.63 ERA, 13 walks, 26 Ks, and a .165/.283/.306 line against in 24 innings, with his last outing before Thursday afternoon’s a 109-pitch, seven-inning appearance against the Marlins on the road in Miami in which he kept the home team off the board in a 10-4 win in which he received no decision.

Strasburg finished the night in Marlins Park at (17-6) in 32 starts and 203 IP, in which he’d posted a 3.37 ERA, a 3.29 FIP, 56 walks, and 241 strikeouts, over which he held hitters to a combined .210/.273/.348 line.

“He’s been unbelievable all year long,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after the outing against the Fish.

“It’s a testament to how hard he worked during the winter and his routine all year long, but he’s been, really, really good.”

Going up against the Phillies in the series finale in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Strasburg tossed three scoreless on 48 pitches, striking out five of the nine batters he faced as the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but he left a 2-1 curveball up in the zone in the first at bat of the fourth, and Philly second baseball hit it out to right for a solo home run that got the Phils on the board, down 2-1.

It was 5-1 in the Nationals’ favor when Strasburg gave up a leadoff double in the top of the fifth, but he struck out the next three batters in a 21-pitch frame that left him at 92 pitches overall, with 10 Ks from 20 batters faced on the day.

Strasburg needed 15 pitches in the fourth, eight total in the fifth, and he struck out three in a row in the top of the sixth, after giving up a leadoff double in a 21-pitch frame which left him at 92 total with 10 Ks from 20 batters faced on the day.

Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 Ks, 1 HR, 92 P, 61 S, 5/0 GO/FO.

Strasburg was up to just 92 pitches after six, but Martinez made the decision to go to the bullpen at that point.

“He’s got a slight cramp in his hamstring, so I told him he was done, that was it,” Martinez said after Strasburg earned his 18th win of the season in what ended up a 6-3 game.

“He said he felt fine, but I said why chance it? So he’s all good. It was just a cramp.”

Strasburg finished the afternoon with a 3.32 ERA, a 3.26 FIP, a career-high 251 strikeouts, (10.81 K/9), and 56 walks (2.41 BB/9) with a career-best 18 wins in 33 starts (one shy of his previous career high). He got 11 swinging strikes and 16 called strikes against the Phillies, spread out pretty evenly amongst his four pitches, and had just 10 of 92 pitches put into play, four for hits.

Overall, it’s been an impressive season for the now-31-year-old right-hander, and as his manager said, Strasburg told reporters it started with the work he did this past winter.

“I obviously worked really hard last offseason,” he explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game. “I wasn’t really satisfied with the way last season ended up.

“I think it’s just part of the process of learning more about yourself and learning how to take care of your body better.”

Will he get another opportunity to take the mound this season, if home field is on the line on Sunday maybe, or in a starting role or in relief in the Wild Card game, or in an NLDS matchup if the season ends up getting extended? And what about the first of two opt-outs in his contract? He’s put together an impressive campaign if he decides to test the market this winter.