Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The night before the NLDS Game 4 between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg didn’t figure he’d be starting Wednesday due to the flu-like symptoms. Instead, he had the cure for the Cubs.
Strasburg notched 12 strikeouts over 7 shutout innings en route to Washington forcing a Game 5 in the nation’s capital.
Nats fans had been holding their collective breath all week while Strasburg battled illness. Washington’s ace conceded that even as late as Tuesday night, he didn’t think he’d be able to take the mound to preserve the season.
“I’m surprised I was able to hang in there,” Strasburg said. “But again, I think it’s just those situations where, you know, try and break the game down, keep it simple, and just know that going in, whatever I have in the tank, I’m giving it everything I have.”
The win gave Strasburg his first career playoff win. It was a big one not just for his team, but him personally as well. Drafted first overall by the Nats in 2009, Strasburg found himself making his major league debut on June 8, 2010. Strasburg pitched up to his lofty expectations, but after making only 12 starts, he suffered a torn ulnar collateral injury, and needed Tommy John surgery.
Strasburg made it back by the September of 2011, but after only logging 24 innings, Washington decided to limit his innings in 2012, his first full season back from the injury. As a result, Strasburg helped pitch the Nationals in to the playoffs, but didn’t make a start after September 12. Washington lost in the first round of the playoffs to the St. Louis Cardinals, and fans were wondering if their ace’s innings limit had cost them a shot at a World Championship.
Strasburg had pitched well in Game 1 of the NLDS, striking out 10 over 5 2/3 innings, but it wasn’t enough as the Cubs won 3-0. Combined with his 12 strikeouts Wednesday, Strasburg tied the record for most strikeouts in an NLDS series.
After facing adversity early in his career, Wednesday’s win goes a long way towards cementing Strasburg’s status as one of the best hurlers to don a Washington Nationals uniform.