Stephen Strasburg entered Thursday’s matinee against the Marlins with a 6.10 ERA after two starts, and just a day after the Nationals’ bullpen was needed for over seven innings. He was also facing a Marlins team who, even in their lowest moments, seem to give him trouble.
Fortunately for the Nationals - as they head into a road series against the Braves - Strasburg was exceptionally sharp, carving up the Marlins’ lineup for 6 2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts along the way. He has now tossed double digit Ks in 13 career outings, two of them already coming this season.
Strasburg took advantage of an aggressive approach by the Marlins to consistently begin counts with strike one. He worked primarily with his fastball and changeup, only throwing seven curveballs out of his 98 total pitches.
“You want to get anybody as a hitter in swing mode and get them looking for fastball and throw them something else,” manager Matt Williams said.
“But you have to establish that first, and he did that today. It's 95-plus, and it's got a little movement, and then when he can throw his changeup off of it, it looks like a fastball coming out of his hand. And it's got some depth to it, so you end up swinging over the top of it. He was really good, pounding the zone.”
Strasburg brought to the mound some adjustments he had discussed with shortstop Ian Desmond in recent days. Desmond was happy to see them pay off.
“Strasburg looked great,” Desmond said. “We actually talked after his last start and he told me some things that he wanted to work on and to see him go out and execute it today, exactly the way he wanted to change and what he was going to mess with, was pretty good to see. That's maturity. Everyone forgets how young he is. He's going to keep on getting better and better and today was proof of that.”
And those adjustments were?
“I'd have to kill you if I told you,” Desmond said.
Okay, Stephen, why don’t you explain them, then:
“It was just: I don't need to go out there and trick guys and I don't need to go out there and be perfect. I just got to attack the strike zone, let my stuff work and get much better results that way.”
Strasburg allowed a single to Christian Yelich to begin the game before settling in to retire 14 straight. His only run came on a Marcell Ozuna solo homer in the seventh inning, which led to him being replaced by Jerry Blevins just one batter later.
Strasburg finished with 98 pitches after needing only 78 through the first six innings. His best moment probably came at the end of the sixth with two men on against Giancarlo Stanton. It was a one-run game and the Marlins had their best player at the plate.
Strasburg began the count with two sliders and a changeup, the sliders for strikes. The second strike came on an awkward half-swing that suggested Stanton was looking for a fastball. The third strike, a 95 mile per hour heater on the inside part of the plate, finished him off.
Catcher Sandy Leon described Strasburg’s approach to the at-bat as “perfect.”
“I don’t think he was trying to strike [Stanton] out, but he just threw, like, perfect pitches. Every pitch was, like, perfect. That guy is the best hitter they got. That’s the best hitter the Marlins got. We just treat him like a normal hitter because [Strasburg’s] stuff was really good today. Every pitch was really good and it worked.”