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Stephen Strasburg tossed five scoreless innings against the Mets today.
"I feel ready to go," the Nationals right-hander said today following his penultimate start of spring training.
The New York Mets who faced Strasburg today at Space Coast Stadium wouldn't disagree with that sentiment. Though they scattered five hits, a walk and a hit batter in five innings against the young ace, they never crossed the plate.
Strasburg wasn't in tip-top shape, and his pitch count of 84 was a bit high for only five innings of work. But he struck out five, mixed in several high-quality offspeed pitches and seemed to bear down when he really needed to.
"I think that's huge," he said. "Because not every inning is going to be 1-2-3. Being able to throw quality pitches in big situations, it's what separates the elite pitchers from the average ones."
Strasburg's 4.12 ERA in five overall starts this spring is nothing to get excited about, but he's been particularly sharp his last two times out, allowing only one run over 10 innings.
He's said all along he was looking to build himself up to reach his peak on Opening Day, as opposed to his first camp with the Nationals in 2010 when he burst out of the gates from day one.
His mindset and approach to opposing hitters began to shift into regular-season mode today, and he'll try to keep it there Friday night when he faces the Marlins in his final tune-up before the April 5 opener against the Cubs.
"Yeah, it's definitely in the rehearsal stage, going out there trying to execute pitches and not necessarily go out and try to work on stuff," he said. "When you step on the rubber, it's go-time right now."
Said manager Davey Johnson: "He's awful close. It's hot down here, and he's been working hard, but I like his delivery. I like [that] he was free and easy. Last two times out, he's really been really close."
Not that the results of these games matter, but Strasburg's strong outing today did come at a good time for the Nationals, who had been 0-10-1 over their last 11 games. Behind their ace's five shutout innings and an opportunistic lineup that pounced on Mets prospect Matt Harvey for five runs in the bottom of the first, the Nationals cruised to a 12-0 victory.
Was it coincidence that the losing streak ended with Strasburg on the mound?
"He's supposed to be a stopper," Johnson said. "That's why I named him No. 1."