The Nationals handled Stephen Strasburg with the ultimate level of care last season, only allowing him to throw more than 100 pitches in a game a handful of times and ultimately cutting him off at 159 1/3 total frames. It was a smart strategy for a prized pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, but the ace right-hander is looking forward to a little more freedom.
“I’m not trying to get out there and get used to throwing 90, 94 pitches,” Strasburg told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post on Saturday in Nationals camp. “You look at some of the top pitchers in the game, they go at least 110 every time out. I’m going to be prepared for it. … Just got to keep working, keep grinding.”
Strasburg has a 2.94 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 45 career starts. He has fanned 313 batters in 251 1/3 career innings. And he is just now being let loose. It’s a frightening thought for the rest of the National League.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.