Stras' deep start, 11 K's crucial for Nats

Nationals starter records 86 strikes, the most by a pitcher this season

Stras' deep start, 11 K's crucial for Nats

ATLANTA -- As Stephen Strasburg was in the midst of dominating the Braves on Sunday afternoon, filling the strike zone with fastballs and unleashing a fury of devastating curveballs and changeups just out of the reach of opposing batters, Braves manager Brian Snitker turned to his hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer.

"I told him we could have had Hank [Aaron], Murph (Dale Murphy) and some of those guys in the lineup, and I don't think it would have mattered because he was really good," Snitker said.

It was Strasburg's most dominant outing of the year, a season-high 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 spectacular innings, to lead the Nationals to a 3-2 victory and halt a four-game losing streak. With Washington's bullpen struggling and overworked the past few days, Strasburg gave the club the kind of deep outing manager Dusty Baker had hoped for.

"We needed every bit of it," Baker said. "He was very sharp. All his pitches were sharp."

Strasburg has been successful this season despite entering Sunday's start with the lowest strikeout rate of his career at 8.2 per nine innings, well below his career average of 10.4. His velocity has been the same as in previous years, and his pitches have still been effective.

However, Strasburg said he made an adjustment from his previous start, and he wanted to be more committed to his offspeed pitches. He would not elaborate beyond that point, but it worked and his pitches were as sharp as they have been all season.

"When you get a guy like that, you're able to do whatever you want," Nats catcher Jose Lobaton said. "Any count. Any situation."

Strasburg coasted through the first seven innings before he found himself in a jam in the eighth. With runners on first and second and two outs, Strasburg battled against right-hander Dansby Swanson. He thought he had a strike on a borderline 2-2 pitch, but he took a curveball that just missed the strike zone. Swanson fouled off a pair of fastballs before he hammered a two-run double that knocked Strasburg out of the game.

Swanson's double brings in two

"I was just emptying the tank," Strasburg said. "I knew the situation, and I made a good pitch there but didn't get the call. Oh, well. So you got to go out there and make the next pitch. Unfortunately, he hit it off the wall."

Still, Strasburg delivered his best outing of the season by throwing a career-high number of strikes. Eighty-six of his 118 pitches were for strikes, also the most by a pitcher in a game this season.

It was the kind of outing the Nationals needed from Strasburg, providing some relief for the bullpen and stopping a losing streak.

"You can't really let what happened the day prior affect what you do out there," Strasburg said. "I just wanted to go out there and just give it everything I had. We put up some runs early. From that point, I was just trying to throw as many shutout innings as I could."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.