- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2015

When the ball dashed up the middle and into the outfield Sunday, Stephen Strasburg tapped his glove on the pitching mound. Carlos Ruiz had just spoiled his no-hit bit in the fifth inning, and though Strasburg was disappointed, he was not frustrated. He still had plenty of work left before him.

Though the no-hitter eluded him, Strasburg allowed only five hits and one earned run over 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking only two in Washington’s 4-1 victory over the Phillies. It was by far his best start of the young season and, in the eyes of manager Matt Williams, one of his best performances in recent memory.

“You know, that may be as good as I’ve seen him,” Williams said. “He pitched at 92, 93 [mph] and was able to reach back when he needed it for 95-plus. I think for me, that makes his changeup even more effective. Today he threw it for strikes when he wanted to, out of the zone when he needed to, so I don’t know if I’ve seen him better than that.”

Strasburg is a strikeout-heavy pitcher, but on Sunday he was abnormally economic with his pitches. He needed only eight pitches to retire the first three batters and 21 to cruise through the entire Phillies lineup. He was perfect for 4 2/3 innings before Ruiz’s hit.

“They were swinging early. That’s kind of part of it,” Strasburg said. “You want them to put the ball in play on four pitches or less and today they were doing that.”

The 26-year-old said he had a good feel for his changeup Sunday and was pleased with how he executed his gameplan. Williams said he probably would have left Strasburg in the game through the eighth had he not given up a run, as he did when Freddy Galvis knocked in Odubel Herrera.

SEE ALSO: The Rundown: Stephen Strasburg shuts down Phillies

Still, Strasburg deservedly earned his first win of the season Sunday. He also improved to 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his past six starts against the Phillies.

“I thought he went after the guys today,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “To see him in the seventh, eighth inning area with only 80 pitches is good because obviously it’s tough for strikeout guys like him to keep their pitch count low. For him to go out and kind of force the issue on them … it’s obviously good to see.”

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