Right-hander Stephen Strasburg put together a start Friday night that reminded the Nationals why they made him their No. 1 overall selection in 2009.
In a 3-1 series-clinching win over the Seattle Mariners, Strasburg came within one out of eight full innings, allowing six hits, one run, a solo homer, no walks and eight strikeouts.
His 210 strikeouts this season are a new Nationals record, and it's only August 31. Gio Gonzalez tallied 207 strikeouts in 2012. Strasburg has thrown the 210 punchouts in 183 innings. He had 191 strikeouts in 2013 over the same 183 innings. So, this season Strasburg has a very good opportunity to shatter career numbers in innings pitched as well.
Saturday's performance was one for the books. Strasburg controlled the game. He gave up only six hits. Mariners had five singles before Dustin Ackley cranked a solo shot in the eighth. The measure of how well Strasburg pitched against a good hitting Seattle team was the way the hitters opened up after he exited the game.
In the ninth, the Mariners looked like they had been released from a struggle and were able to swing free. That was more their style in the ninth. Kyle Seager and Endy Chavez had base hits, and they made Rafael Soriano's outing interesting until the veteran settled in to get his 30th save. The Seattle outburst in the ninth demonstrated how well Strasburg controlled their tempo for nearly eight full innings and handcuffed their offense.
"I think this was the best that we've seen him all year, and probably the most important," manager Matt Williams said on MASN. "He was really commanding fastball, fastballs at 96 or 97 miles an hour and the changeup off of it. Throwing the changeup when he wanted to for a changeup, too. So he was really good tonight."
That start by Strasburg is exactly what Williams and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo want from their front-line starter. So much has been written about Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister as being the first starter in a playoff game. Gonzalez got that honor in 2012 because Strasburg had been shut down to protect his surgically repaired elbow. But if the Nationals can continue their recent roll, Strasburg will be able to take that coveted spot in the most important game for the club since October 2012.
In case anyone had any doubt, Strasburg should be that starter for a future and possible Nationals Game 1. He showed why Saturday night in the Pacific Northwest.