WASHINGTON — With Stephen Strasburg’s consistency, it’s easy to overlook just how dominant he was on any given Sunday. More specifically, how dominant he was against the Atlanta Braves this Sunday.
For the second time this season and 31st time in his career, Strasburg registered double-digit strikeouts (11). Here’s a look at every K in order:
Strasburg’s curveball was arguably his best pitch, as he closed eight of his 11 strikeouts with the big hook. He has only struck out more batters with a curveball (nine) once in his career. He threw 15 curveballs on the afternoon–a season-high–and Braves batters swung and missed on 10 of them.
According to ESPN Stats, Strasburg’s 10 outs via the curveball matched the number in his last four starts combined.
“I think it’s just about trusting it when you’re out there,” Strasburg told the media after the game. “Not setting aside if you throw a bad one or a couple of bad ones in a row or don’t have it. You just got to keep throwing it. That’s what I told myself going in the game, is that I was just going to commit to every pitch.”
But Strasburg wasn’t just a one-trick pony for the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Nearly everything he through over his 7 2/3 inning worked, as he threw a career-high 86 strikes in 118 pitches. That’s a remarkable 73 percent of pitches thrown, which helps explain the one walk.
Strasburg was excellent, but also every bit as good as he needed to be as the team shook off its worst slump of the season (four games). Strasburg was matter-of-fact in explaining his approach.
“You can’t really let what happened the day prior affect what you do out there,” Strasburg said. “I just wanted to go out there and just give it everything I had. We put up some runs early. From that point, I was just trying to throw as many shutout innings as I could.”
By working 7 2/3, Strasburg saved further strain on the National League’s worst bullpen, which came into Sunday sporting a 5.46 ERA, second worst in MLB ahead of only Seattle (5.60). Strasburg handed the ball to the closer, Koda Glover, who converted the first four-out save of his career.
“Well, we needed every bit of it,” manager Dusty Baker said of Strasburg. “He was very sharp. All his pitches were sharp.
“He threw a bunch of strikes and they played us tough. Every game here was tough. It’s never easy. If you’re looking for an easy job, this ain’t the one. We love what he gave us.”