House money. In a very literal sense too as the worst the Nats can do now is break even. Good.
Last night was a bit worrying a couple innings in if only because the Nats should win that game. Strasburg's been very good. Harvey's been very bad. The game is in DC. There really isn't a good reason the Nats should lose. Yet sometimes you do and this would have been a bad time for sometimes.
It was a power explosion, but after watching Harvey two times now I don't want to say anything about the team's offense. He's bad. Let's see what happens versus Matz. Hopefully this tee-ball session gets the bats back in a hitting mood after Colon kept them quiet.
So if we aren't talking about the offense, how about dem Strasburgs?
Another solid outing in a season literally full of them. His worst game was probably that first game of the DH vs Miami where he gave up 3 runs over 6 innings while walking three and "only" striking out 7. That's certainly acceptable, in fact better than acceptable in my opinion. He has yet to have a bad game this year, or even a mediocre one. He has 8 wins and no losses. He is second in the league in K/9 and second in Ks.
Now given that you might wonder why he isn't chasing down the likes of Kershaw for Cy Young. Well he hasn't had anything but good games this year but he's also only had one great one. One dominant game where he went into the 8th. But as you can tell from his results good games are winners most of the time too. He hasn't been cheated out of a win yet. Seven times he's held the other team to 2 or fewer runs over at least 6 innings. Seven times he's won. The only games he hasn't won are the two games where he's given up 4 runs. Keep giving the team these "high-quality starts" and hello 20 wins.
I'll maintain the key to Strasburg's resurgence is just letting him go. He's had 10 double digit strikeout games since coming back form the DL last August, as many as he had from basically the 3 season period from mid year 2012 though July of 2015. The Nats wanted to make all their pitchers Greg Madduxes, contact pitchers who could get the K when needed, but all pitchers aren't the same. Perhpas it was bringing in Max that changed things. Not for Strasburg in a psychological sense. Get that nonsense out of here. But for the Nats in terms of "Why are we letting this guy do what he wants and be successful and trying to tell Strasburg not to do the same thing when he might even be better at it?"
One thing connected to the swings and misses, is that Strasburg has stopped trying to pound the bottom of the zone. From 2013 to DL 2015 Strasburg was throwing just over half of his pitches at either the bottom of the zone or below.* Since then he's under 42%. As you can imagine it has a effect on the converse. He was only throwing about a quarter of his pitches up in the zone 2013 to DL 2015, but now is throwing about a third. "Get the ground ball" has been replaced with "Get the out" and trusting Strasburg can do it.
Now as much as I know some people want to scream MIKE MADDUX! BESTEST! the facts are this started last August. The Nats changed something then and it's continued into this season. Good for Maddux for not changing what's working I guess but he wasn't really the cause of this improvement.
So Stras is Strasburg again, to some degree. The Strasburg he was in 2010-2012 that electrified DC. The one free to strikeout a dozen guys if he feels like he has the stuff that day. He's still a half-step away from dominance sitting in the very very good camp, but if we're lucky dominance is coming.
*thinking about the zone as a grid with top, middle, bottom.