Stephen Strasburg starred to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
The 31-year-old righty tossed six innings of one-run ball in the Nationals' victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series (NLDS). That start put him in the elitist of elite company as they levelled the series at 1-1.
In Strasburg's postseason career, he now has a 0.64 ERA which surpasses Sandy Koufax (0.94) for the lowest ERA of a starter in playoff history.
Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 NLDS win over Dodgers
Dodgers' decision to start Walker Buehler Game 1 was two-fold
Some people were surprised Walker Buehler got the call to start Game 1 for the Dodgers on Thursday. But we are here to tell you it was for two reasons, both of which have been clear as day in the first two games.
Buehler is the Dodgers' ace now. He has the best fastball, the best stuff and the best swing-and-miss stuff as well. While Ryu Hyun-jin is a Cy Young contender and Clayton Kershaw has three Cy Young awards, they are really just aces in name at this point. Buehler is their best.
Second, the decision was strategic. The Nationals are better against finesse pitchers and guys with average velocity than they are against hard throwers. This season Washington batted .249 against power pitchers. The Nationals hit .265 and .273 respectively against everyone else. Buehler averages 96.6mph on his fastball. Kershaw and Ryu average 90.4mph and 90.6mph respectively.
So to hear that Buehler gave up two hits and no runs in six innings of work in a 6-0 Game 1 win and Kershaw gave up six hits and three runs in six innings of work in Game 2 should not come as a surprise at all. That is not to say Kershaw is not good or that he has not struggled in the postseason, but the numbers explain a lot about these first two games. It also may provide a forecast for the Nationals' future success against Ryu in Game 3.
Stephen Strasburg's ridiculous off-speed pitches
It was hard not to marvel at Strasburg's curveball and his ability to use it off of his fastball to make batters look silly.
But it is not just his curveball that is unbelievable. His changeup is just as nasty.
According to Fangraphs, Strasburg threw his curveball 1,036 times in 2019. Hitters got hits 25 times in 228 official at-bats. That is a .162 batting average against. But what is even more amazing is his changeup was even more unhittable. On 701 changeups thrown this year, Strasburg allowed 16 hits in 172 at-bats for a .140 batting average against.
Did Max Scherzer find a second calling?
We know Max Scherzer is a three-time Cy Young award winner and one of the best starters in the game when he is healthy. But it was not a foregone conclusion he would be that coming out in the draft in 2006. Scherzer had a relatively high walk rate as a sophomore and a notable head whack in his delivery that often lends itself to relief pitchers in the long run.
Again though, we know who Scherzer is. But, he might have shown us what he could be if he has to take the path of John Smoltz at the end of his career in Game 2 on Friday. Scherzer came into the game in the eighth inning and was absolutely untouchable. He struck out the side and made Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson look completely silly.
Reliever Max Scherzer. pic.twitter.com/UnsC2DrkNF— MLB (@MLB) October 5, 2019
While Scherzer was never destined to be a reliever, there was some truth to the fact that when he was coming out in the draft if he was not able to stick as a starter he could be a shutdown reliever in the late innings. Game 2 was living proof.
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