After being scratched Wednesday with a flu-like illness, Strasburg was no guarantee to take the mound in the series finale. Baker said he didn't know if the right-hander would be ready to pitch until several hours before game time. But Strasburg not only started, he lasted 7 2/3 innings, ceding only four hits and two runs while striking out seven for his second win of the season.
"I was going to go out there and give it everything I had, and that's what I told them," Strasburg said. "So whatever that was going to be, they were going to get it. I just kept telling myself just one pitch at a time. Kept reminding myself I was just a click away and it was all going to sync up eventually."
The righty appeared a bit wild early, walking the leadoff hitter in each of the first two frames and allowing a run in the third. From there he settled down, retired nine straight and walked off the mound in the eighth.
Strasburg's catcher, Wilson Ramos, said the pitcher struggled early with his fastball. Once he mixed in his secondary pitches -- changeup, curveball and the slider he has experimented with early this season -- with greater frequency, he was able to come back with the fastball later in counts.
According to Baker, Strasburg was badly coughing Tuesday, so the Nationals sent him home to rest. He felt a little better Wednesday, when he was originally supposed to start, and received an IV treatment. On Thursday, Baker asked Strasburg if he could pitch, and Strasburg assured the manager he was ready.
"He didn't look great, but he looked better," Baker said. "We didn't have any idea what we were going to get out of him today. But he said he felt better as the time went on because he sweated it out, whatever was in him."
Strasburg said he figures the illness was a reaction to facing cold weather after a warm spring in Florida, something that always bothers him in April, but hit particularly hard this time.
Despite his manager's worries, the pitcher said he never considered an early exit.
"You can't really worry about that kind of stuff out there," Strasburg said. "Whatever I had in the tank I was going to give it all to the guys."
Alex Putterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com.