But it certainly didn’t start out feeling like a good night for the right-hander.
The White Sox were able to plate four runs on three hits in the first inning, highlighted by run-scoring singles from James McCann and Eloy Jiménez, and then a somewhat surprising two-run single with two-outs and the bases loaded from No. 8 hitter Yolmer Sánchez.
Just like that, it was 4-0 Pale Hose.
As Strasburg came off the mound after enduring that tough first inning, he had some choice words for home plate umpire Mike Everitt.
“I’ve done it enough times,” Strasburg said. “You kind of just know that you can’t let the last pitch affect it. Try and be a nice guy, for the most part, and that’s a working relationship back there. As long as they watch the ball all the way in and don’t give up on it, then I’m good with it.”
Then in the second inning, Yoán Moncada belted a solo homer over the right field wall on an 0-2 pitch. Moncada’s 11th of the season made it 5-0 Chicago.
But after the Moncada homer, Strasburg settled in and retired five batters in a row. He got through his own fielding error to begin the fourth. José Abreu doubled in the fifth, but did not score.
Strasburg detailed how he had to alter his strategy a bit after allowing some annoying base hits early to the White Sox.
“It still comes down to execution,” Strasburg said. “I think the biggest thing is that I wasn’t going to let them nickel-and-dime me with hitting the ball the other way. So I wanted to attack and be aggressive, just as much as they wanted to try and get the runs in.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the Nationals offense erupted for six runs, the most in one frame this season, to erase a big deficit and take a 6-5 lead. Anthony Rendon smacked a three-run shot and Victor Robles belted a two-run homer to ignite the comeback.
“I definitely got punched in the face in the first,” Strasburg said. “There’s only one thing you can do and that’s what we preach as an organization is, never to give up and keep battling. Moving on, to the fifth inning, that was a test of will there. It was great to see the guys pick me up. Obviously, the offense and the bullpen came and shut it down too.”
So after all that went wrong early for Strasburg, the 9-0 comeback provided him with one to remember: he becomes the first Nationals pitcher (2005-present) to reach the century mark in wins.
“It’s something that I think it’s a great personal accomplishment and I’ve very fortunate and blessed to have been able to do that,” Strasburg said. “But this whole time and in the future, wins and losses - as much as you like having them next to your name - it’s a team thing. And I think it’s just great that this was such a good team win. They really picked me up for the 100th.”
“Kudos to Stras, I mean, he gave up a few runs early, but he kept us right there and battled,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “Big inning in the fifth to get out of that mess. A testament to him. He gets his 100th win today. I know he would’ve liked it a lot different but it’s still a win for him.”
Strasburg joins elite company too with the victory: He matches Clayton Kershaw and CC Sabathia for the fourth fewest games to reach 100 wins in his career (219 games).
Rendon appreciated how Strasburg got through that first inning, mentally filing it a way and not letting it ruin the rest of his start.
“Definitely, early in his career I feel like he would have showed more emotion and more antics on the mound, but that’s maturity or whatever you want to call it, you’ve got to ask him, but I’ve definitely noticed.”
And Rendon is a good teammate to ask about how impressive a feat 100 wins is for Strasburg, having seen most of those wins while manning third baseman behind the hurler for seven seasons.
“Oh it’s been amazing,” Rendon said. “I love how he just goes out there, he challenges hitters. he knows what he’s doing, he has a game plan and he has filthy stuff. It’s fun to watch teammates like him, like Max (Scherzer), when we had Tanner (Roark) and we had Gio (González) so we’ve been fortunate to have great starting pitching.”
So reaching 100 wins, is this milestone something that Strasburg can appreciate as he reflects back to that first major league start, almost exactly 10 years ago this month against the Pirates?
“It was a long time ago, for sure,” Strasburg said. “I mean, been fair share of ups and downs and I know they’re going to continue. I’m excited to see what the next 10 years has in store.”