In seven innings, Strasburg mixed in a variety of pitches and featured a fastball that hit 97 mph on the radar gun.
After a leadoff single by Juan Pierre, Strasburg proceeded to retire the next 19 hitters in a row until Giancarlo Stanton doubled with one out in the seventh inning. For a player who has not pitched in a meaningful game since September 7 last year, one could not have expected a better performance.
Yet there was a sense of surprise when Strasburg was pulled after 80 pitches and seven innings. His stuff was devastating Monday.
After the Nationals were so cautious with his innings last year after Tommy John surgery, why was he allowed to only throw 80 pitches?
They did not need more.
When all is said and done, his inning count will be over 210. There was just no reason to extend him Monday against a weak Marlins team coming fresh out of spring training.
And if the Nationals are as good as fans and pundits think they are, Strasburg will be pitching well into October. There will be times when he is needed to go that extra inning or throw those 120 pitches required to win.
Monday, he mixed the speed of his pitches and the type to perfection. The box score may only show three strikeouts, but his ability to understand what was needed to get outs shows that he is a pitcher and not a thrower.
No pitcher is ever happy when he is removed from a game, and Strasburg did not look like a player who was done for the day when he came into the dugout after the seventh.
That is the type of mentality you want to see from any ace pitcher. Manager Davey Johnson would rather see someone upset who feels he still has something to give rather than having a sense of relief at finishing his start.
With all the hype that preceded Strasburg into the major leagues, not only is he well on his way toward meeting it, but he is likely to exceed it.
For a team that is playing under the weight of such high expectations, Strasburg’s ability to go out there and deliver the performance he gave Monday will go a long way into turning Washington’s potential into a Washington championship.
Baseball seasons are marathons and not sprints. When the Nationals really need to lean on Strasburg, he will reward that faith.
In the meantime, they need to take care of him. Monday was the perfect example.
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