WASHINGTON -- If the National League Cy Young Award race is truly wide open entering the season’s final month, count Stephen Strasburg among the legitimate contenders.
Strasburg was dominant in every sense of the word in perhaps his best start of the season in Saturday night’s 7-0 victory over the Marlins at Nationals Park, matching a season-high 14 strikeouts in eight innings. After surrendering a pair of singles in the first, Strasburg settled down to retire the next 22 batters in a row, freezing Lewis Brinson on a curveball for strike three to end the eighth inning and cap his masterpiece.
“He can attack you in multiple ways,” Nats manager Dave Martinez said. “Changeup, fastball, two-seam, four-seam, curveball. And throw them all for strikes.”
Strasburg’s performance helped add to his growing Cy Young Award case. He overtook Jacob deGrom for the NL lead in strikeouts with 215. He began the night ranked fourth in Wins Above Replacement among NL pitchers, according to FanGraphs, with 4.5. He has successfully avoided a stint on the injured list so far and leads the NL in innings pitched (179) and in wins (16).
One of Strasburg’s biggest contenders for the award is someone who also pitches in his own rotation, Max Scherzer. But Scherzer has openly acknowledged that he is pitching with some restrictions at the moment, leaving room, perhaps, for Strasburg to challenge fellow contenders Hyun-Jin Ryu from the Dodgers or deGrom from the Mets.
The Marlins have not been confused for an offensive juggernaut the past few seasons, but Strasburg has continued to assert his dominance over Miami. Saturday marked his 12th win in a row against the club, dating back to September 2015, the longest streak for any pitcher over a single opponent in franchise history and tying Clayton Kershaw’s 12-game winning streak over the Padres for the longest active streak in the Majors, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
And Strasburg did it with one of his most impressive outings yet since Statcast began tracking. On Saturday, he induced 26 swings and misses, which is tied for the second-most whiffs during any outing in his career, behind a 30-whiff performance on Sept. 15, 2015. And he filled up the strike zone, tossing 81 of his 107 pitches on Saturday for strikes.
"Fastball command was really good,” Strasburg said. “I was able to throw my curveball for strikes when I wanted to. Changeup was pretty good as well.
"It's the name of the game. You go out there and make good pitches, and the guys are able to put some runs up on the board. Just wanted to keep pounding away."