WASHINGTON -- After his 15th and final strikeout of the evening, Stephen Strasburg skipped off the mound, a small sign of excitement before he began jogging toward the dugout with his head down. It would have been hard to tell at that moment that he had just completed one of the best performances of his Major League career.
Strasburg overwhelmed the Padres offense in Saturday's 3-0 victory at Nationals Park as he recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts in seven dominant innings of three-hit ball. The 15 strikeouts are tied for the fourth-most in a game in Nationals history.
"It's pretty cool, but there's another [start] five, six days from now," Strasburg said after one of the best starts of his career. "So maybe I"ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow."
It was Strasburg at his best. The talented right-hander has put together back-to-back dominant outings. In his last two starts, he has allowed just two earned runs in 14 2/3 innings (1.23 ERA) with 26 strikeouts and just two walks. He said he has recommitted to his offspeed pitches and it has paid off, particularly with his curveball, which has been especially sharp recently.
"Good luck as a hitter," Nationals acting manager Chris Speier said. "That's not easy."
But Strasburg had command of all of his pitches and could use them at any point of the game and in any count. He forced the Padres to swing and miss 15 times and take 25 called strikes, tied for his fourth most in a single outing since 2015.
"I think the fact that you will go to any one of those pitches keeps them off any single one," Strasburg said. "That's just a part of pitching, keeping them off balance, changing speeds, keep them guessing."
Twice before Strasburg had struck out 14 batters -- in his electric Major League debut against the Pirates in 2010 and in September '15 against the Phillies -- but he was even more devastating in this game. He finished with a game score of 89, which would make this the second-best start of his career, trailing only that start against Philadelphia on September 15, 2015, when he struck out 14 in eight shutout innings to post a game score of 93.
"He was mixing all his pitches, his fastball, changeup, curveball," Padres second baseman Cory Spangenberg said. "He was throwing them in any count. He was just hitting every spot."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.