In what has been a season of retribution for Stephen Strasburg, it is now October and he has started his playoff reckoning.
There are some who will have a hard time forgiving Strasburg for shutting it down in 2012, when the Nationals appeared to be a front runner for the World Series. On Tuesday night, the right-hander tossed three strong innings when his team needed him the most. With Washington on the ropes and ace Max Scherzer allowing three runs on a pair of long balls, Strasburg did exactly what was hoped of him. He slammed the door on the scoring and kept the deficit manageable. This allowed for the Juan Soto heroics to even become a possibility.
This has also been a microcosm of the season for the Nationals. Scherzer has been good, please do not get the confused. However, he also made a full-season career-low 27 starts and battled injuries most of the season. His ERA was strong, as usual, but when the Nationals needed to lean on Strasburg to power into the playoffs, he was their ace in 2019.
When the injury bug first hit Scherzer in July, Strasburg had his best month. In five July starts, Strasburg worked 31.2 innings, allowing just 22 hits and four runs. Washington won all five games. While he had a less stellar August, Strasburg bounced back in September, when the Nationals won 10 of their final 11 games to motor into the postseason. In his two of those games, Strasburg worked 13 innings, allowing seven hits, one run, and striking out 16.
While many will remember that Strasburg didn’t pitch in 2012, a lot likely do not realize that Tuesday was just a continuation of a strong run in the postseason. Now in 22 innings of work, Strasburg has allowed just 16 hits and one earned run. While he has allowed three unearned runs, his ERA sits at 0.41 and his WHIP is 0.909. His career postseason K/9 is 11.5 and his SO/W ratio is at seven.
Simply put, Strasburg is a strong postseason performer. After seeing career highs in innings, strikeouts, and wins, with near highs in most other categories, he is in a peak position for a historic playoff run as well. While he did toss three innings on Tuesday night, Strasburg also only threw 34 pitches. This sets him up to be a prime candidate to start Game Two of the NLDS against the Dodgers, and then return in a possible relief cameo again in Game Five, if needed.
Strasburg has always been ultra-talented and highly regarded, so this is not really a breakout opportunity in the postseason. It is completely a redemption. If it is possible, Strasburg is underrated overall, due to the extenuating circumstances. Tuesday night, and how he came through huge in his first-ever professional relief appearance was just the beginning. Next up: the Dodgers.