Sep 20, 2015, 6:09 PM EDT
Stephen Strasburg’s 2015 season has been a tale of the extremes. Early on he went through the worst stretch of his career and suffered several injuries along the way. But lately he has been at his very best, carving up opposing lineups with record-setting command of the strike zone.
Strasburg added 10 strikeouts in Sunday’s 13-3 win over the Marlins for his third straight double-digit strikeout game. He has 37 in total over his last three outings, a new Nationals team record in consecutive starts. During that stretch he has walked only three batters.
“It’s good, huh?,” manager Matt Williams said of Strasburg’s control.
“The key there is fastball command. When he was dealing with the issues and being uncomfortable out there, it wasn’t as easy for him to throw the ball where he wants to. But since he’s been back and healthy and feeling good, the curveball has been good and the changeup has been good. But it all starts with the fastball. He’s been able to control it both sides of the plate.”
Since returning from his latest stint on the disabled list on Aug. 8, Strasburg has a 2.24 ERA in eight starts. He has 72 strikeouts and six walks in 52 1/3 innings in those games.
Strasburg allowed two runs on Sunday, but was only charged with one as earned. That dropped his season ERA to 3.81, which is lower than Gio Gonzalez’ 3.83 mark. For Strasburg to get there after at one point having a 6.55 ERA through 10 starts this season is remarkable.
“I’ve been able to keep them off balance,” Strasburg said. “I’m just trying to keep it simple and trying to do what I’m capable of doing. That’s just going out there and executing pitches.”
Strasburg’s aggression has stood out since he came off the DL and particularly as of late. Williams said that is less about Strasburg’s gameplan and more about his ability to fire away without having to worry about an injury.
“I don’t think it’s mentality. I think it’s health,” Williams explained. “He feels good and when he feels good, you can see him running the ball in there at 98 miles per hour today. That’s pretty impressive. He’s able to reach back and be aggressive in that regard. When he wasn’t feeling well early and dealing with all the issues he dealt with, the ankle and the back. He was trying to feel the ball over the plate a little bit. Now that he’s healthy, I don’t see an issue with it.”
Tyler Moore, who played first base on Sunday, said Strasburg has been an important reason why the Nats are still able to cling to longshot playoff hopes.
“He’s been solid ever since coming back. He’s been a big thing for us,” Moore said. “He’s pounding the zone. He’s throwing strikes. When he does that, his stuff is kind of unhittable. It’s tough.”
Strasburg has perhaps epitomized the Nationals’ continued determination lately, despite their large deficit to make up in the NL East standings. Strasburg is still focusing on the little things and refusing to look back on his uneven start to the season, or forward to what could possibly happen if the Mets slip up and give them a chance.
“You just try and focus on the now. You can’t really worry about the past or the future. You just try and focus on each pitch one at a time and execute each one to the best of your ability,” he said.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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