WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - We kind of glossed over it amid the flurry of Nationals roster and lineup news following yesterday’s 4-4 tie with the Cardinals, but there was a ballgame and things did happen during the game that warrant mention. Especially Stephen Strasburg.
Making his final tune-up before the regular season, Strasburg put forth a performance similar to Max Scherzer’s impressive start the previous night. Strasburg allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. But he struck out nine, didn’t walk a batter and got his pitch count all the way up to 97.
Like Scherzer during his 10-hit, 12-strikeout start Friday night, Strasburg’s primary goal was to build his pitch count up and finish the spring on a positive note.
“Everything’s feeling really good,” the right-hander said. “Recovering nicely. I don’t think the jump (in pitch count from start to start) has been too big an issue in camp.”
Strasburg gave up three early runs, though a couple of missed plays by Andrew Stevenson led to an unearned run in the top of the first. He did leave a two-seamer over the plate to Miles Mikolas and watched as the Cardinals pitcher launched it to left field for a two-run homer.
But Strasburg struck out three of the first five batters he faced, including Paul Goldschmidt. And he retired eight batters in a row during one stretch, striking out the side in the fifth.
“I think everything really synced up much better today,” he said. “I was kind of progressing up to this point. What I was working on in the bullpen showed itself. The changeup was really good. The breaking ball was working well, too. And the two-seamer was moving.”
Strasburg now faces two extra days of rest before making his scheduled season debut March 30 against Noah Syndergaard and the Mets. It’s not typical to go an entire week between starts, but Strasburg will try to find ways to extend his typical pre-start preparations before taking the mound again.
“It’s just kind of the nature of it, and what the schedule is,” he said. “I’ll probably just tweak the routine. I’ve pitched on a week’s rest before. It’s not ideal, but it’s all going to work itself out.”