- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Walking in and speaking quietly, Stephen Strasburg had little to say about getting the ball Friday for Game 1 of the Washington Nationals' NL Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.

He’s happy. He had hoped for this when he was younger. He feels good.

Options were available to Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams. His staff led the National League in ERA. Jordan Zimmerman had just thrown a no-hitter. The staff is so deep, Tanner Roark finished the season with a 2.85 ERA, yet was not even named by Williams among the first three starters for the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.

That’s because Zimmerman will pitch Game 2 Saturday at Nationals Park and Doug Fister will follow in Game 3 in San Francisco on Monday. Manager Matt Williams said he knows who the Game 4 starter would be, if necessary, but was not announcing that Thursday. Though, most expect Gio Gonzalez to get the nod.

“Over the last month, everybody has been really good,” Williams said. “Stephen in particular has gotten stronger as this month has gone on. His fastball velocity has ticked up each month during the course of the season.”

Starsburg has tired of questions about missing the 2012 postseason when the club decided to shut him down. But, because of that, Friday will be the 26-year-old’s first postseason start. It’s coming at his peak.

Strasburg tied for the National League lead in strikeouts with 242. Opponents hit .194 against him in September, leading to a 1.13 ERA.

“I just feel like I’ve gotten stronger physically as the season went on,” Strasburg said.

Williams said he thinks Strasburg pitches well at home (his ERA is 2.56 in Nationals Park versus 3.82 away from it this season), so that was part of his reasoning. He’ll also be well-rested. Strasburg has not pitched since Sept. 27, when he threw just 83 pitches in six innings.

“I do know this: he’s ready,” Williams said.

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