“That is the Strasburg I’ve known for a long time,” Johnson said. “That’s him. That’s what he does.”
The Nationals maintained their 41
2-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and used their sweep of the Mets to virtually knock them out, dropping them 111
2 games back. With five straight wins, the Nationals surged to 19 games over .500 at 58-39, matching the high-water mark since baseball returned to Washington. They have the best record in the National League, and their offense is playing better now than at any point this season.
“We know we’re good,” Morse said. “That’s what it comes down to. Why not play with a little confidence, a little swagger?”
Strasburg allowed one run on four hits and zero walks. He whisked through seven efficient innings in 94 pitches despite all those strikeouts, which pushed his MLB-leading total to 151. The Mets hit six balls out of the infield. Strasburg made one mistake, a first-pitch fastball that Ike Davis blasted into the right field seats for a home run, but otherwise cruised.
“It took a little while to wake up,” Strasburg said. “But once I got out there and got up in the first inning with the adrenaline going, it just started to click.”
In his last start, the Nationals squandered a nine-run lead against the Atlanta Braves after Strasburg allowed four runs in the sixth inning. He needed 103 pitches before leaving with one out in the sixth. Johnson wanted him to stop picking at the edges of the strike zone and attack hitters, to force batters to hit his raw stuff.
As Johnson watched Strasburg burst into the majors, he lamented his approach. Johnson thought Strasburg gave in to the hype attending his arrival and tried to overwhelm batters. He has repeatedly urged Strasburg to throw under control and, like he did Wednesday, throw in the 95-97 mph range rather than triple digits.
“He’s going to get his strikeouts not trying to strike people out,” Johnson said. “If he tries to make them hit it, he’s going to strike them out.”
Wednesday, Strasburg relied on precise location with his fastball and an onslaught of strikes, just as pitching coach Steve McCatty urges. Strasburg threw 67 fastballs, and 63 of his 94 pitches were strikes.
“It was just attack the strike zone and don’t nibble,” Strasburg said. “Just go out there and make them put the ball in play. The good pitchers can get through seven in under 100 pitches. So that was definitely a goal.”