The Twelve Days of “Strasmas:” A Retrospective of No. 37

Stephen Strasburg is not physically well enough to report to spring training, in yet another setback in his recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome.  It might be a good time to reflect on his tenure as a Washington National in case we have seen the last of him on a pitcher’s mound.  

How many baseball players have had a pseudo holiday named after them before they played their first MLB game?  That might add just a little bit more pressure.  To help appreciate how well it went from 2010 until 2019, below is my Twelve Best Days of “Strasmas,” ranked.  Feel free to add to the list.

“Strasmas Eve” (Alliance Bank Stadium)

Before we get to “Strasmas” proper, let’s recall a moment or two from the first “Strasmas” season.  In May of 2010, Stephen Strasburg made five Minor league starts for the Syracuse Chiefs.  At least a couple of those were televised on MASN. The best of the home telecasts was May 12 vs Norfolk when Strasburg struck out seven in six innings of work.  One walk. NO HITS.  The anticipation for “Strasmas Day” intensified because of these telecasts.

Twelve:  September 28, 2011 (Sunlife Stadium)

On the final day of the 2011 baseball season for Washington, Strasburg struck out ten in Florida and allowed one hit during a 3-1 victory over the Marlins.  In six innings, Strasburg allowed his only two walks in five September starts in his return from Tommy John surgery.  For the month, Strasburg went 1-1 with an ERA of 1.50 (4 runs in 24 innings) and struck out 24.  Manager Davey Johnson wore a huge smile out at the mound after this one.  Johnson had good reason to be ecstatic.

Eleven: July 10, 2012 (Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City)

Strasburg makes his first and only appearance in an MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City. Strasburg declined to play in 2016 due to an ailing back.  (Enter Max Scherzer).  In the 2017 All-Star Game, Strasburg did not pitch.  In this game in 2012, which the National League won, 8-0, Strasburg pitched the fourth inning.  (Gio Gonzalez pitched a scoreless third frame).  In his lone inning, Strasburg gave up no runs on one hit and one walk. He faced four batters and threw a strike on 8 of his 17 pitches. 

Ten: August 11, 2013 (Nationals Park)

A season after his controversial shut down, Stephen Strasburg threw his first complete game shutout. In a 6-0 victory over Philadelphia, Strasburg struck out ten and walked one.  He allowed four hits over nine innings and threw exactly two-thirds of his 99 pitches for strikes.  This performance started to validate his innings limit in 2012.  Strasburg and GM Mike Rizzo took a lot of heat for the tough decision to sit out the 2012 postseason.  But the GM and pitcher were eventually proven right, even if it took six more years. 

Nine: August 30, 2017 (Nationals Park)

Strasburg hurled the second complete game shutout of his career, a 4-0 victory over Miami.  At the plate, Stephen had two hits for the evening, including a solo home run in the fifth inning.  On the mound, Strasburg struck out eight.  He gave up six hits but issued only one walk.

Eight:  July 18, 2019 (vs. Atlanta)

Shohei Who?  Strasburg went off at the plate in a 13-4 blowout of the Braves. He racked up three hits (two of which were in the same inning including a HR), two runs scored, and five runs batted in. On the mound: seven strike outs, 3 runs allowed on eight hits in five and a third innings.

As Jamal Collier wrote on July 19, 2019:

“Strasburg became just the fifth pitcher in the last 50 years to record two hits in an inning including a homer, and first since Edwin Jackson on April 11, 2010. No Nationals/Expos pitcher had ever had two hits in a single inning before Strasburg.”

Not one to call attention to himself, Strasburg had to endure the “HR dance welcome tunnel” set up in the Nats dugout. Remember, this was 2019.  But once again Stephen Strasburg rose to the occasion while stamping his status as a complete baseball player.

Seven:  June 8, 2010 (The original “Strasmas” Day) Nationals Park

Stephen James Strasburg made his MLB Debut.  He piled up fourteen strikeouts, including the last seven batters he faced.  He threw 65 of 94 pitches for a strike and didn’t walk a batter.  Number 37 gave up two earned runs on four hits in seven innings of an eventual 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh.  If the District of Columbia was back on the baseball landscape in 2005, Mr. Strasburg pinned D.C. to the map after this game.  With all due respect to Ryan Zimmerman’s opening day winning dinger in 2008, I think the Strasburg debut was the first time the new Nationals Park rocked a playoff-like atmosphere from start to finish. 

Six:  October 11, 2017 (NLDS game 4 @ Wrigley Field)

Talk about gutting it out. Strasburg was visibly suffering with a bad cold, but fortunately it was treated with ample over-the-counter concoctions.  The Nats defeated the Cubs 5-0 on a murky day on the North side of Chicago.  This game would be the first of several big post-season performances by Strasburg.  Michael Taylor hit a clinching grand slam into the right-center field basket in the top of the eighth inning.  Strasburg struck out 12 in seven innings with just two walks and no runs allowed to help even the series and force a deciding game five back in DC.  In this game, Strasburg rebounded from a very tough game one loss in which he gave up two unearned runs while striking out 10 in seven innings.

Five: Oct. 1, 2019 (NL Wild Card game, Nationals Park)

“Stras” came out of the bullpen to bail out a shaky Max Scherzer and pitch the six through eighth innings. Keeping the Nats very much in the NLWC game, Strasburg struck out four and surrendered two hits and no walks.  Although this was his first time coming out of the bullpen, Strasburg fit right in and embraced the big moment. He stabilized the game for the Nationals, if not the very nervous crowd at Nats Park. Along with Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg kept alive the Nationals wild ride of 2019.  The Nats knocked out Milwaukee 4-3, and moved on to the NLCS.

Four: October 14, 2019 (NLCS Game 3, Nationals Park)

In an 8-1 blowout, Strasburg struck out 12 St. Louis Cardinals and gave the Nats a commanding 3-0 lead in the NLCS.  Strasburg gave up seven hits and no earned runs in seven innings. In the top of the second inning, Strasburg made an unassisted putout on Marcel Ozuna on a comebacker to the mound. After gloving the ball, Strasburg whipped around and ran directly at a stunned Ozuna.  Ozuna was easily tagged out by Strasburg between second and third base and any chance of a Cardinals rally was extinguished.  Stephen Strasburg was playing exceptionally smart playoff baseball and was locked in on all fronts. More of this was on the way.

Three: Oct 4, 2019 (NLDS Game 2, Dodger Stadium)

On a Friday night in Chavez Ravine, this game became an instant Nationals classic to cherish for a long time.  In a must game for Washington, Strasburg delivered six innings of three-hit shutout baseball with 10 strikeouts and no walks.  Another defensive gem by Strasburg as he picked a line drive off the bat of A.J. Pollock to end the sixth inning.  This time it was “Mad” Max Scherzer coming out of the bullpen for the eighth inning and he exuberantly struck out the side. Anthony Rendon made a sick catch down the LF line for out number two in the ninth inning.  Hudson sealed it with a nerve wracking save and the Nats defeated Los Angeles, 4-2, to even up the series at one game.

Two: October 23, 2019 (World Series Game 2, Minute Maid Park)

In his first World Series start, Strasburg went six innings while striking out seven and walking just one.  Helped by some terrific and strategic defense, Strasburg and the Nats went on to rout the Astros, 12-3, and take a 2-0 lead in the series.  Strasburg was able to coolly overcome an Alex Bregman 2-run shot in the first inning.  His mix of fastball/change-up/curveball was devastating against Astros hitters. Sprinting off the mound after an inning-ending strikeout continued to be a signature postseason exercise for the 6’5” 239 lb. pitching machine.

One: October 29, 2019 (World Series Game 6, Minute Maid Park)

On his way to winning the Willie Mays World Series MVP trophy, Strasburg pitched 8.1 innings that included seven strikeouts and two earned runs. With a deflection off his glove, Strasburg started a 1-5-6 force out at second base to cut down the lead runner for the second out in a pivotal bottom of the sixth.  Destiny seemed to be on the Nats side as Strasburg then struck out Carlos Correa to end the inning. After 104 pitches and one out in the ninth inning, Strasburg was lifted with the clear understanding that he might be needed again the next night.

The Nationals got the critical equalizer by a score of 7-2 and forced a game seven. More importantly, the Nats won momentum back and laid to waste the premature celebrations erupting in the Houston stands prior to and during this off-the-rails game six of the ’19 World Series. 

This game turned out to be Strasburg’s fifth and final win in the postseason without a loss.  His Washington Nationals would get one more victory to become Major League Baseball Champions for the first time in nearly a century. 

Get well, Stephen.  Thank you for a great decade.

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Dominic Toto

Blogging about the Nats since 2022. Nats nut since 2004. Once hit a batting practice ball that cleared the infield dirt at Nationals Park. On a fly.

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