- - Monday, October 14, 2019

When he met with reporters in St. Louis Saturday to talk about his Game 3 start Monday night in the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals at Nat Park, Stephen Strasburg was asked why he was pitching so well now in these playoffs.

He then unpacked the briefcase full of clichés he had brought with him, and used every one.

“It’s trying to focus on what you can control, disregard what you cannot control.”

“Executing a game plan.”

“Taking one pitch at a time.”

Trying to make as many good pitches as possible.”

“Letting the chips fall as they may.”

Monday night before a packed and raucous sold-out Nationals Park crowd of 43,675 energized by their team’s first NL Championship Series home game, Strasburg focused on what he could control — and he controlled the St. Louis Cardinals for seven innings of one-run baseball, pitching the Nationals to an 8-1 win in Game 3.

The victory gives Washington a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, one win away from a sweep and their first World Series.

Howie Kendrick provided the run support with three doubles and three RBI.

Strasburg executed his game plan, with third strike changeups on eight of the 12 batters he sent back to the bench muttering.

He took one pitch at a time until he ended up with 117, most of them strikes.

And he tried — and succeeded — in making as many good pitches as possible.

Then again, right now, all things seem possible for Stephen Strasburg.

Then he collected all the chips, as he has in the postseason. It’s his game.

In seven career postseason appearances, Strasburg has allowed just six earned runs in 41 innings pitched. He has struck out 57 and walked just five.

It’s been a gradual but total transformation.

Strasburg, always reluctant to speak much in the past, has become almost Buddha-like in his responses to questions such as the culture in the clubhouse, and how it has changed.

“It’s human nature … when things go wrong to maybe not want to look in the mirror and constantly say we don’t really have that kind of feeling in the clubhouse,” he told reporters. “It’s more so like picking each other up and sticking together. And we’re just a tight-knit group of guys, and we talk about family a lot.”

That sounds like a culture that is damn good.

Max Scherzer may be one of the leaders of this team, but Strasburg has become the face — and the arm — symbolizing the dominating Nationals’ starting pitching in the playoffs, setting the tone with his Game 2, six-inning, one-run 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series to even it at 1-1. It was a strong follow up to his three innings of shutout relief in Washington’s 3-2 wild card victory on Oct. 1.

His counterparts on the mound — Anibal Sanchez and Scherzer — have turned in their own impressive starting performances, both carrying no-hitters late into games 1 and 2 against the Cardinals.

But this has been the coronation of Strasburg, the highly-touted 2009 No. 1 draft pick who has put together an impressive career — 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA – but always heard the questions about his toughness.

Now they ask why he is pitching so good.      

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.



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