We don’t know how many more starts Stephen Strasburg has left in him this season. Maybe it’s three, maybe five. The Nats still aren’t saying. But it’s about time to savor the ones he does have. Strasburg certainly is because, like a college football team on probation, his contribution to whatever success his club ultimately has will come during the regular season and games like the one he pitched against Atlanta on Tuesday.
Strasburg’s six-inning effort helped save Washington’s beleaguered bullpen. He struck out 10 batters, walked one and allowed just one earned run on four hits. If it wasn’t his most dominant game of the season it’s in the discussion. Strasburg himself doesn’t necessarily buy that these pennant-race games are his playoffs. October is October, after all, and this is still…well, just August.
“I don’t view them at all. It’s the regular season,” Strasburg said. “I’m going to keep pitching, and I’m in it with these guys for the long run.”
Strasburg himself noted he is always an intense competitor on the mound. But his performance might give him away in this case. He was ready for the Braves from the jump, striking out leadoff hitter Michael Bourn swinging on a change-up.
He retired eight of the first 10 batters he faced, allowed the two to reach on singles, and then was even better when he came back out after a 51-minute rain delay. We’ve seen this before from Strasburg. On the big stage, with a large crowd urging him on, he is as good as any pitcher on the planet. But the biggest stage is denied to him this year so for now games like this will have to do.
“From what I’ve seen, Stephen always seen performs better when situations like that arise, when it’s kind of backed up against him,” teammate Ian Desmond said. “He just fed off that crowd and was unbelievable really.”
And even Strasburg saw some parallels with his magical debut on June 8, 2010 when a sellout crowd at Nationals Park watched him strike out 14 batters. In a way they’re still waiting for another moment like it – even if that bar is high even for someone with Strasburg’s gifts.
“Absolutely. I think it reminded me a lot of my debut out there, having the sellout crowd and the atmosphere of pitching in college, too,” Strasburg said. “It’s great to be pitching for something and I think you ask any of the guys in here, we’re all in it together and we’re giving it everything we have every day.”
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