Strasburg trying to show he's like everyone else -- but he's really not
If the commonality of a man is that, no matter how famous or successful, he puts his pants on one leg at a time, then the pitchers' corollary is true, too, for the Nationals' wunderkind starter
It also became evident that Strasburg is, in fact, capable of walking batters, something he had not done in his
And he does have physical limitations -- not entirely his own, but those of the Progressive Field mound. With TBS making a late decision to broadcast the game nationally and some 12,000 or so more fans than normal filling the seats, Strasburg again wowed with his stuff, throwing eight first-inning fastballs that registered, in succession, 100-100-100-99-100-100-99-99 miles per hour. But as the matinee ran into later innings, he struggled with his footing, on two occasions even summoning a few members of the groundscrew to fill a hole in the mound where his left foot was landing.
At the end of the game, a 9-4 Nationals victory in which Strasburg picked up his second win in as many outings, his pitching line was a mix of spectacular (eight strikeouts, only one run and two hits allowed) and ordinary (5 1/3 innings, five walks).
But even if he did not officially register a statistical quality start, that's exactly what Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, delivered over 95 pitches on Sunday.
For the second time, he won after the Nationals had lost two in a row while again demonstrating that devastating arsenal of 100-mph four-seam fastballs, hard-breaking curves, sharply falling change-ups and his lesser-used sinking two-seam fastballs.
"What's most impressive is that he throws them all for strikes," Nationals catcher
With the prohibitive favorite Phillies scuffling, the surging Braves have taken the National League East lead, but the last-place Nationals remain only six games out of first, making the East by far the most neatly packed division in baseball. With Strasburg slated to pitch every fifth day -- not every fifth game, meaning he might often displace other Washington starters -- he could prove to be a difference maker down the stretch, maybe giving the franchise a longshot at playoff contention presuming the club can provide enough offense on days he doesn't pitch.
Strasburg's 22 strikeouts in his first two starts are the second most all-time, trailing only the 27 thrown by
His most impressive inning on Sunday, therefore, was his third inning. After Indians designated hitter
Even when he faltered for reasons outside his control, Strasburg was diplomatic. Even though the technical difficulties of the mound clearly affected him, he admitted only that he got in a "funk" because he didn't adjust quickly enough and flatly said in a postgame television interview, "You really can't let things like that affect you."
Interspersed were a few glimpses of areas where Strasburg can indeed improve himself, most notably his pitching with runners on base. In start No. 1 on Tuesday he allowed two hits in four such at bats, including the home run to
And his command wasn't perfect, though it truthfully never will be. The home run allowed to Hafner was, undoubtedly, a poorly-placed pitch. Strasburg's 99 mph fastball was at Hafner's knees and middle-in on the plate: right in a lefty power-hitter's wheelhouse.
The second hit was a 97-mph fastball that top Indians' prospect, catcher
Both hits harkened the scouting report given by Pirates shortstop
Strasburg agreed after the game, reiterating that "velocity doesn't matter" and adding that what's most important is "you've got to locate it."
Still, though, it's impossible not to note that in his first start his fastballs averaged 97.8 mph while the rest of the Nationals' rotation had managed a major-league worst 87.9 mph. That discrepancy may make his rotation-mates better, for the same reason the Red Sox used to sandwich knuckleballer
For it is true that, as
Sunday's start showed a little of Strasburg's one-sleeve-wearing vulnerability and may have tempered some of the hyperbole, but should do nothing to dissuade the Nationals from thinking their young stud could be -- and might already be -- great.