Stephen Strasburg thinks the Astros knew what was coming tonight. Even if they did, Houston still couldn't do much to slow Strasburg down.
In Strasburg's six innings tonight, Astros hitters managed to score just two runs on six hits. The Nationals righty walked only one batter and struck out five, but when he came off the mound in the sixth inning, he told manager Davey Johnson he had a feeling he was tipping his pitches, specifically when Houston had runners in scoring position.
"Just the way they were kind of checking on some pitches and stuff," Strasburg said. "Typically, kind of the hitter does something a little different on some pitches, and when they know it's coming, they obviously look very comfortable in there. That's something I'm going to have to look at on the film, and if I am doing it, I know how to fix it."
Strasburg's curveball was especially sharp today, and he used it to set down J.D. Martinez (twice) and Jordan Schafer on swinging strike-threes.
The curveball is often the last pitch to come around for a pitcher who has had Tommy John surgery, and Strasburg said he's started to get a better feel for his curve lately.
"I think I felt like I made an adjustment in New York with it," Strasburg said. "When I was warming up in the bullpen, it really just wasn't working, and I just decided I felt like I was overthrowing it a little bit warming up. I just want to go out there and trust it, and it went pretty well.
"I think it's getting better to what it was I college - not only be able to throw it for a strike but also throw it for a swing-and-miss pitch. Like I said, I'm not expecting it to be perfect every day, but it's about making adjustments. I think I have a much better idea of what I need to do to correct it when it isn't right."
The one time Strasburg got into some trouble came in the sixth inning, when, pitching with a 2-0 lead, he allowed the first three hitters he faced to reach on two singles and a walk. That loaded the bases with none out, and while Strasburg was able to retire the next two hitters and get up in the count 1-2 to Chris Johnson, the Astros first baseman delivered a two-run single to right, knotting the game at 2-2.
"When you get bases loaded with nobody out, there's not too many times you're going to get out there without giving up any runs," Strasburg said. "At that point, I was trying to minimize the damage and made a pitch. He just put a good swing on it. That's baseball."
Nationals hitters immediately responded and got Strasburg the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning, plating four runs that allowed Washington's ace to improve to 2-0 on the season.
"It was huge," Strasburg said. "All night we came up with some big hits, and obviously (Steve) Lombardozzi had a great night. That was fun to watch."