MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Strasburg's 14 K's show he's back to old self

After battling injuries, righty ties career high in strikeouts in eight scoreless innings

Strasburg's 14 K's show he's back to old self

PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg showed Tuesday night that he is over the back tightness that plagued him in late August and the start of September.

Strasburg had arguably his best start of the season in a 4-0 victory over the Phillies. He pitched eight scoreless innings, didn't allow a baserunner to reach scoring position and struck out a career-high-tying 14 batters. The outing brought back memories of the day Strasburg made his Major League debut in 2010. In that game against the Pirates, Strasburg struck out 14 batters.

"It's the best I've seen in a couple of years," Phillies second baseman Andres Blanco said. "I think most guys would agree with me. I don't know, Nolan Ryan? A lot of fastballs, combined with changeup and curveball? Pretty good."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Strasburg joined Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in franchise history to post back-to-back games of 13 strikeouts or more. Strasburg struck out 13 Mets on Sept. 9.

"He was really good tonight," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "The biggest thing was he established his low fastball. He didn't use his changeup until about the fourth inning. When he establishes his low fastball, there are a lot of swings-and-misses [30 in all] on the changeup. Innings four through eight, he used the changeup a lot. He got a lot of guys to swing and miss at it."

For Strasburg, he believes staying healthy is the reason for his success in his past two starts. During that span, he has allowed three runs in 15 1/3 innings and struck out 27 batters.

Strasburg got off to a slow start this season because he had issues with his left ankle, neck and back. Now it looks like Strasburg is back to his old self.

"I think health is huge for anybody," Strasburg said. "I've had a lot of guys battle through injuries. It's a good learning process for me. [Even back in Spring Training when I had the left ankle injury], it helps me have a better understanding that I need to have my body to go out … and execute pitches."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.