We’ve seen two starts from Stephen Strasburg now, and to be honest, the way he pitched yesterday was what I thought he’d do his first time out.
Strasburg gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings, but walked five and ran his pitch count up earlier in the game than the Nationals would have liked. I expected something more like that against the Pirates last week, not the bravura 14-strikeout show we all saw at Nationals Park.
Strasburg still has a tendency to elevate his fastball too much. It’s why he’s been susceptible to home runs in the past, and will probably continue to be in the future. He also struggled with the mound yesterday, though he downplayed it afterward, and fell behind too many hitters.
But what we have learned is that Strasburg has an ability to miss bats at this level. I heard plenty of talk this spring about how he’ll have to use his complementary pitches to strike batters out, because they’ll be able to catch up to his fastball. Once teams get some tape on him, that may turn out to be true, but 22 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings would suggest he’s got the secondary stuff to adjust.
So what comes next? He pitches Friday night against the White Sox, and though they’ve struggled, the White Sox still have a lineup full of power hitters who tag teams for a few runs. They’re third in the American League in homers, though they tend to be a bit of an all-or-nothing team (see 267 runs, 10th-best in the AL). But they’ll present the best test we’ve seen for Strasburg yet.