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Stephen Strasburg pitched eight innings for the first time in his career.
How comfortable? Enough to reach (and ultimately complete) the eighth inning for the first time in 54 career starts with the Nationals.
Cross that one off Strasburg's to-do list. The only one left on the resume: His first career complete game, which will probably come at some point this season, especially if he keeps pitching the way he did last night.
Strasburg was in complete control from start to finish, keeping San Diego's hitters off-balance with a devastating changeup and inducing a season-high 13 groundball outs despite striking out a season-low four batters. More important, the right-hander kept his composure, most notably during a potential fifth inning landmine that looked and felt far too familiar.
When Ryan Zimmerman threw wildly to second base trying to record a force out, Strasburg found himself in an all-too-familiar situation, needing to shrug off an error and pitch his way out of a jam. He caved under the pressure five days earlier, spiraling out of control following a Zimmerman miscue, but not this time.
As soon as he got the ball back following the error, Strasburg turned to Zimmerman and motioned to his teammate as if to say: "No sweat, I got your back." Then he went back to work and did just that, inducing a groundball out and a strikeout to escape the jam with only one unearned run crossing the plate.
Just like that, the question of Strasburg's ability to overcome on-field adversity seems to have floated off into the ether. Does this mean it's no longer an issue? Not necessarily, and we won't know until he faces another such situation somewhere down the road.
But this certainly felt like a key moment in the right-hander's growth as a pitcher. It wasn't just that he got two quick outs following the error. It was that he maintained an air of authority as he did it, never once conveying to anyone that he was rattled by the situation.
Again, maybe the simple fact he was pitching in familiar surroundings, with tons of friends and family in attendance, helped ease Strasburg's mind and allow him to better focus on the task at hand. Whatever the case, there's no doubting his comfort level pitching at home in San Diego.
This, of course, was the first time Strasburg reached the eighth inning as a professional, but do you know the last time he stayed on the mound that long? How about May 8, 2009, he night he tossed a no-hitter against Air Force in his final home start for San Diego State?
Yes, four years later, Strasburg finally got another chance to pitch in San Diego and made the most of it, firing off 117 pitches (only two shy of his career-high).
In the process, Strasburg not only earned his first win since Opening Day. He perhaps earned the respect of any coaches, teammates or other observers who began to question his fortitude in the wake of his previous start.