Strasburg Settles Down—But Trails

IRVINE, Calif.—Reports of Stephen Strasburg’s demise are greatly exagerrated.

Strasburg settled down after a rocky first two innings, shutting out Virginia over the next five. His day is likely over after seven strong innings of work, as he untucked his jersey in the dugout after striking out Danny Hultzen to end the seventh, and he has thrown 119 pitches by my count.

Strasburg finished with 15 strikeouts and no walks. He allowed two runs on eight hits, but just three hits came after the second inning. He struck out the final three batters he faced, all on breaking balls. His fastball regained its explosive life in the middle innings, though he worked mostly in the 94-96 range. He had four strikeouts on his fastball over the fifth and sixth innings, two at 96, one at 95 and one at 94. The highest velocity I recorded on the Baseball America Stalker radar gun was 98, which he touched once in the first inning. I saw 97 a few times, including once in the fifth.

Virginia starter Robert Morey might have actually outpitched Strasburg, striking out nine over six scoreless innings. Morey’s 81-84 mph slider was devastating, and in particular it ate up Brandon Meredith and Cory Vaughn, who have combined to strike out seven times so far. But the Aztecs got on the board here in the eighth, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly against reliever Tyler Wilson but stranding the tying runner on third against Matt Packer.

It’s official: Strasburg’s day is over. Andrew Leary has taken over in the bottom of the eighth. I think it’s safe to say Strasburg did not disappoint the packed house here to see his first (and possibly only) career postseason start. The auxiliary bleachers and the berm down the left-field line have been packed to the gills, and there’s a lot of red and black visible in those sections.