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Strasburg keeps leading the charge

Aug 26, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

USA Today

Stephen Strasburg has quite easily been the Nationals’ best pitcher over the last few weeks since he returned from the disabled list on Aug. 8, and that trend continued in Tuesday night’s win over the San Diego Padres.

The Nationals right-hander overcame a second-inning home run by Jedd Gyorko to go six strong innings of two-run ball with one walk and seven strikeouts. The Gyorko homer and Yonder Alonso single right before it were the only two hits Strasburg allowed all night.

Strasburg has made four starts since he’s been back with the Nats and in each he’s lasted at least six innings and given up two runs or less. He has walked just three batters during that stretch to go along with 32 strikeouts.

While the rest of the Nats’ rotation has battled inconsistencies in the month of August, Strasburg has been as reliable as ever. He has a 1.73 ERA this month, while the other starters sit at 5.13.

That 5.13 number is not far off from the 5.16 ERA Strasburg himself had in his 13 starts this season before August. Clearly there is a difference in the results, but exactly why that is depends on who you ask.

No difference,” Strasburg said. “I’m just going out there with the same game play and trying to focus on hitting my spots and using all my pitches.”

Okay, let’s try Matt Williams’ take:

Health. Health is a big key. If he feels good when he’s out there then he’s able to let it go. I don’t know how many balls he threw that were 98 miles per hour tonight, but quite a few of them. He sat 95 to 97. That just means he feels good. We’re happy to have him take the mound for us.”

Catcher Wilson Ramos echoed that sentiment.

“He’s more aggressive right now. When he came back from DL, he’s being aggressive, he’s pitching more good. His velo is back, you know 98 miles per hour fastball, so he attack the hitter really well,” he said.

Strasburg, in fact, averaged 96.8 miles per hour with his fastball on Tuesday night, the highest for him since June 2, 2012 in a start against the Braves when he sat around 97.3. Early this season when he was battling minor injuries and working through mechanical issues, Strasburg was closer to 94 on his fastball. Now he is sitting consistently around 96 and touching 98 and 99 with more frequency.

With his fastball velocity up, Strasburg is also keeping it down in the zone with impressive control.

“I thought the fastball down command was good tonight,” Williams said. “He threw a lot of balls down in the strike zone, a lot of fastballs. When he does that, breaking balls open for him. Changeups open for him.”

There is no question Strasburg is locked in. His last four outings have come against the Padres, who are eighth in baseball in runs scored in August, the Rockies (twice) and the Giants. This season the Rockies and Giants are second and third in NL run production, respectively.

Strasburg is pitching his best at an opportune time for the Nats with the season nearing its home stretch. Now it’s time for his rotation mates to follow suit.

  1. ArVAFan - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    Candide: following up from the previous post. When the score was 3-2, spouse said “They need to score again, I’m getting stiff.” The next pitch was the 4th run, so of course we stood up to cheer. Next inning, I asked her if she was getting stiff again. She said “if I need to.” Then we got to stand up and cheer a lot. We might have something working here.

    Or maybe it was having a beer with the game.

    Either way, I’ll be there tonight, and hoping for lots of opportunities to cheer.

    P.S. nice photo with the gnome.

    • Candide - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      “If I need to…”

      +1 ☺️

      I’ll be there tonight, too. Cunegonde had to beg off – two straight late nights is more than she can do during the work week, plus we’re going Friday night and leaving town early Saturday morning, so if she’s going to get any sleep this week…

  2. Candide - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:22 AM

    He was still lighting it up at 97 in the 6th. No reason to keep him in there longer with the pitch count and score like it was, but he looked like he could have gone a lot farther if he needed to. I looked at Cunegonde’s scorecard just before the 7th and saw that he wasn’t striking anyone out any more – mostly grounders. But apart from that second inning, he was utterly dominant, even in the 6th.

    • adcwonk - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:42 AM

      Yep — he ended the night with 15 straight retired.

  3. scnatsfan - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    The Mets continuing to win is getting annoying. Very annoying.

    • jd - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:26 AM

      Yeah well. It is what it is. We just have to keep winning and hope for an opening somewhere down the line.

    • micksback1 - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      I gotta think they have to cool off?

  4. tcostant - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    Thom Loverro was right, Strasburg to save the day.

  5. micksback1 - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    I can see a path of the Nats playing 600 ball, if this group stays healthy. The problem is….will Mets play 500 or less?

    Its also a bummer that we have to play the Cards next Monday. I hope, somehow the gap is down to 2-3 before the Cards series.

    • bowdenball - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is very little chance of making up 2.5 to 3.5 games over 5 days. Even if we win all 5 (unlikely) the Mets would have to lose 3 of 5 against bad teams. We’re going to have to go to St Louis and win at least one and maybe two games to stay in this thing.

      • micksback1 - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        your probably right and maybe even just one win verse cards could keep it at 5 going into the Mets series at home. maybe somehow Phillies can win a game verse Mets

      • bowdenball - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:55 AM

        I like the Phillies’ odds of taking at least one of these next two. They’re at home, they’re fired up after last night and they get to face the back end of the Mets’ rotation now. Unfortunately I’m not sure whether we can win two in a row vs the Padres with the back end of OUR rotation facing a semi-decent lineup and a couple more decent starters. I think we’ll win the series, but stretching this winning streak to five is a big ask. My prediction is that we finish up Thursday night exactly where we are right now.

        I like our chances to maybe make one up this weekend, though. The Red Sox aren’t great but they’re not the Phillies either, Harvey has struggled on extra rest this year, and we’re lined up perfectly to do some serious damage at home against the Marlins.

      • edgs3rd1978 - Aug 26, 2015 at 8:57 PM

        Are you working for NatsInsider bowdenball? Why the constant placating of Nats fans that are pissed at management for sitting on their hands? Cut the charade..the season is over. It’s been over for weeks now.

    • jd - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:04 AM


      I really think we need to win both games against the Padres. 1st of all I am not as confident as you are that the Mets drop a game in Philly ( I am hoping though). I really fear that if we are still 4.5 – 5.5 games out going into St.Louis we will be in danger of getting buried.

      I think Gio and Ross have it in them to win these games. Tonight is the game I fear the most because Tyson Ross is better than Cashner and Gio has been a bit up and down + the Pads best hitters are right handed.

      Now is the time to win tough match ups.

      • bowdenball - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:16 AM

        I wouldn’t say I’m confident that they’re gonna drop one, but we need them to falter at some point and this seems like as good a time as any. If you look at the Vegas lines the Mets are currently favored by about the same as us tonight- slightly but not overwhelmingly, as compared to the previous two games when they were favored at what amounts to 2 to 1 or higher.

        It’s nice to be able to say that we still technically control our own destiny, but the fact of the matter is that we’re gonna lose some games, including some games that we’re favored to win, and we’ll need the Mets to do the same at an even greater rate if we have any chance of catching them without needing an unlikely 6-0 head to head sweep. These next two in Philly with Colon and Niese on the mound are at least closer than most of the Mets’ matchups recently.

      • Section 222 - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:46 AM

        Cashner is eminently beatable. Tyson Ross, not so much. Tonight is the night for our hitters to really do their thing, and Gio to have a quality start.

        I guess what you mean by “technically control our own destiny,” is that we’re down by 5.5 and have 6 games remaining against the Mets. But really, if you’re behind, you don’t control your own destiny because if the leading team plays well, you’re toast. I’d love to see us make up a game before the Mets series, then take 2 of 3. That will put the pressure on. We can’t expect to dig ourselves out of the hole we’ve dug overnight.

      • bowdenball - Aug 26, 2015 at 12:49 PM

        I totally agree about tonight. This is the tough one, easily the worst matchup of the three game series for us. Anything can happen on any given night but if you’d told me before the series started that we’d win tonight’s matchup I would have felt pretty good about things.

    • alexva6 - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:43 AM

      all the scoreboard watching is inevitable but at times overwhelming.

      I’ve applied my own simple formula to establish our chances, until the Nats lose ten games from here on out they’re the division champs. that would get them to 92 wins and I am thinking that is good enough.

      of course only 1 or 2 of those can be to the Mets and 92 may not end up being enough. but it fits my simple mindedness and frees me up to worry about other things.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:58 AM

        Whether the 10 game figure is right or not (as you knowledge), you’ve got the basic idea right. It’s impossible to predict or forecast or attribute too much significance to any single baseball game.

  6. micksback1 - Aug 26, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    Stras and Zim now playing like stars!

  7. NIWatcher - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    If any of you did not get an opportunity to get a Rendon Gnome last night, or any of the other promotions this year, I have them all up for trade. You can look at Craigslist under collectibles. GYFNG!

  8. Candide - Aug 26, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    Mike Rizzo, get your scouts on this kid STAT!

    • adcwonk - Aug 26, 2015 at 12:22 PM

      omg — that is hilarious!

      (and the kid hit one below the strike zone — looks like he crushed it!)

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 26, 2015 at 1:06 PM

        That kid is going to get ripped on twitter for showboating like that.

    • alexva6 - Aug 26, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      I wonder if he got drilled on the next pitch for the shoot-em dead/bat flip?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 26, 2015 at 1:09 PM

        He’s gonna keep doing that, he’s gonna need a helmet. Just saying.

  9. unkyd59 - Aug 26, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    Yeah…. I believe I had that…

    unkyd59 on August 4, 2015 at 7:24 pm
    Welcome back! Now get back in there and make Maxie the #2 Ace in this outfit!!! Light a spark under our butts!!





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

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