PHILADELPHIA - Some might see the radar gun, with a fastball velocity in the 92-94 mph range, and wonder what’s wrong with Stephen Strasburg. Davey Martinez sees it as an opportunity for the veteran right-hander to show off his skills that don’t require velocity.
“He’s pitching now,” Martinez said after Strasburg tossed seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Phillies on Wednesday. “He’s mixing all of his pitches in and attacking the strike zone. He fell behind a couple times and got right back to throwing strikes. He did really, really well.”
This was Strasburg’s best start since he returned from shoulder and neck injuries. Truth be told, it was his best start since at least mid-May, back when a big season was still in front of him.
This won’t go down as a big season for Strasburg, not after he essentially missed 2 1/2 months with those injuries, making only one brief start in between before going back on the disabled list. Even with Wednesday’s victory, he’s only 8-7 with a 3.87 ERA in 19 starts, hardly up to his career standards.
But if there’s a silver lining to this otherwise frustrating year, it’s perhaps the way it has forced Strasburg to approach each of his starts differently than he has in the past.
Though he insists he’s healthy again, he hasn’t been able to rediscover his old velocity, the upper-90s fastball that defined his career up to this point. But he has made the adjustment. He’s locating his fastball well. And he’s throwing his curveball and changeup in more fastball counts, in the process keeping opposing hitters off-guard.
“I mean, it’s kind of at the point where it’s going to take probably an offseason to get the stuff back,” he said. “Instead of trying to reach back for it and not make pitches, you just have to pitch where you’re comfortable at and not really look at the gun too much.”
It worked against the Phillies. Strasburg scattered five hits across seven innings, allowed only two batters to reach second base, struck out nine and did not walk anyone. He even maintained a relatively efficient pitch count, completing the seventh at 101.
“He’s attacking the strike zone,” Martinez said. “And he’s really staying underneath himself. He’s not getting ahead of himself. He’s not jumping. He’s using his legs really well.
“I mean, I think he could have (gone) back out there (for the eighth inning), but I thought: ‘One hundred pitches, that’s good enough for him.’ He had a great day.”