This time, that was enough. The Nationals won the first World Series title in team history with a 6-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 7, and Strasburg was crowned the most valuable player. His two World Series starts — 14⅓ combined innings, four total runs and 14 strikeouts to three walks — capped a historic playoff run and shed the reputation he garnered long ago as someone who couldn’t pitch unless the conditions were perfect. Along the way, he became the first pitcher to go 5-0 in a postseason.
“It’s just surreal,” Strasburg told Fox afterward, standing with the MVP trophy, his wife, Rachel, and their two daughters. “To be able to do it with these group of guys is something special. … I love every one of those guys. It took all of us to do it.”
They might not have been here without him. Strasburg shoved all postseason, shedding the fragile label he once bore and showcasing a reinvented approach that reflected his passage into becoming a veteran. He carried this team through three elimination games and delivered one of the best elimination-game starts in recent World Series history. In Game 6, he was the first pitcher to allow two or fewer runs while going 8⅓ innings since Curt Schilling in 1993.
His greatest achievement was giving his team a chance to win against a dangerous Astros lineup. Strasburg appreciated the achievement but deflected praise when he received the award to his teammates, just as he always had. You could make an argument for the award for any of three Nationals: Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto or Strasburg.
You could say it had to be Rendon. He, at one point, possessed an unreal statline in elimination games. His plate appearances in the seventh inning or later: walk, double, home run, double, home run, double, home run. You could make the point it had to be Soto. The phenom who turned 21 on Friday jump-started the Nationals in Game 1, when he took Astros starter Gerrit Cole to the train tracks for an opposite-field home run. He remained one of the few hitters who kept pace with Astros pitching throughout the series. He punctuated it by trolling Astros star Alex Bregman and carrying the bat to first base.
Yet no one propelled the first World Series title in franchise history more than Strasburg. The right-hander steadied the pitching, helping stabilize the staff when fellow ace Max Scherzer faltered because of injury. He helped pick up the team when they needed him most. In the end, the former No. 1 pick had become the pitcher he was always supposed to be. Not the one everyone hoped for, but the one he really was.
This team transformed him not only as a pitcher. Strasburg praised General Manager Mike Rizzo for adding players, such as Gerardo Parra, who reshaped the clubhouse and reintroduced the world to a new Strasburg. He smiled more.
“They had me doing things I never thought I’d be doing,” he told Fox. “Hugging, dancing — I think I’ve gotten a little bit better in both departments.”