STRASBURG STRIKES OUT 10 IN SIX ONE-HIT INNINGS
In an appropriately fitting way to end the Washington Nationals' second-best season record-wise since the move from Montreal in 2005, the man they expect to lead them even higher, right handed starter Stephen Strasburg, was simply dominant in a 3-1 win over the Florida Marlins, striking out 10 in six innings, limiting the home team to one hit and two walks in their final game at Miami's Sun Life Stadium.
The Nats won their 80th game, going 17-10 in the month of September, equalling their June record for their hottest months of the season. The Nats finish in third place in the N.L. East for the first time since the move, 3 1/2 games ahead of the fourth place New York Mets.
Strasburg was simply sensational, using all of his pitches in a masterful performance. The Marlins got one base hit, a sawed-off bloop single from Gaby Sanchez in the second inning. In fact, the second inning was the only frame Strasburg allowed any base runners at all. A lead-off walk by Mike Stanton ended up as the front end of a double play, and center fielder Bryan Peterson walked behind Sanchez' single. But Strasburg was able to get catcher Brett Hayes to pop up to shortstop Ian Desmond to end the inning.
He did not allow another runner.
According to PitchFX, Strasburg threw more change-ups and curveballs than in any of his previous four starts the season. He got 15 swinging strikes spread across all four of his pitches, and threw 54 of his 79 pitches for strikes. He averaged 96-MPH with his four-seam fastball.
Perhaps his most dominant inning was the fourth as he struck out the side, with both Greg Dobbs and Mike Stanton watching strike three on curveballs.
The 23-year old righty accumulated 24 innings in his five 2011 starts, allowing four earned runs on 15 hits and two walks, striking out 24.
Strasburg left to handshakes and back slaps after the sixth, and was followed to the mound by Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, who earned his 43th save of the season. Storen was supposedly off-limits today, as he told media before the game he was unavailable, so he must have been feeling better by the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around.
The Nats picked up two runs in the fifth on Ian Desmond's one-out single, driving in Ivan Rodriguez and Steve Lombardozzi, and a solo insurance run in the eighth on Roger Bernadina's RBI single, plating Alex Cora, who had tripled in his at bat.
Wednesday's season-ending win might be little more than window dressing on a campaign that was more successful record-wise than almost anyone would have predicted, especially considering the Nats finished the year 14th in batting average in the N.L., 13th in on-base percentage, and 11th in slugging.
But crossing the 80-win threshold is a symbolic achievement for an organization, team and fan base that have had more than their fair share of tough times in the past six years, including back-to-back 100-loss seasons, the Smiley Gonzalez affair, countless Philly Phan invasions, and in successive years losing their two best pitchers -- foundations for the franchise -- to the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Strasburg's re-emergence this September gave the Nats a much-needed boost after slogging through a lousy July (11-15) and August (12-15). His appearance Wednesday was the exclamation point on the Nats successful season and gives a glimpse to Nats fans of the promise of the future.
THE GOOD: Um, Strasburg. Man is he going to be fun watching next season.
THE BAD: Chris Marrero went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, hitting clean-up today. Neither Ryan Zimmerman on Michael Morse played on the last day of the season.
THE UGLY: Jayson Werth went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, hitting third. Werth ends the first year of his seven-year, $126 million contract .232/.330/.389 with 20 homers and 58 RBIs.
THE STATS: 5 hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks. 2-for-3 w/RISP, 3 LOB, one GIDP. No errors.