What impressed Nationals manager Matt Williams was Strasburg's fastball command. In fact, Williams said Sunday marked the best fastball command Strasburg had all year. In the game, Strasburg also threw a lot of curveballs early in the count to get strike one.
"He had the ability to throw the breaking ball at any time, certainly keeping hitters off balance, so I think he pitched really well," Williams said.
During his bullpen session, Strasburg had a feeling it would be a good day against the Phillies.
"I was trying to get more consistent with all my pitches, locating them a little bit better. If you do that, it's easier to execute the game plan," Strasburg said.
The one thing Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton took notice of was Strasburg's focus. Location was never a problem. For example, when Lobaton wanted the ball inside, Strasburg was able to get the job done.
"He was focused on every hitter," Lobaton said. "He was just in the corner a lot. He was throwing the breaking ball, changeup, he was using everything today. Everything was good. He knew what he was doing. Today, he was pounding the zone. The fastball had more life today. The key was, he knew the hitters."
Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels was just as good as Strasburg as he allowed an unearned run on four hits in seven innings. The one run scored in the third. Lobaton reached on an error by third baseman Cody Asche. After Strasburg moved Lobaton over to second on a sacrifice, Denard Span singled to center field, scoring Lobaton.
"Cole was real good," Phillies manager Ryan Sandberg said. "Hard to not think that it's a waste of a solid start. But we weren't able to get to Strasburg. Three hits total on the offensive side of things, and we weren't able to push a run across, give Cole a little support."
The hit by Span marked the 29th straight game in which Span reached base via a hit or a walk.
"I was down in the count," Span said. "I wanted to make sure I was ready for the fastball. I looked at the replay. The pitch was way inside. But I was able to stay inside of it and it dropped through [for a hit] for me. My approach is to stay up the middle no matter who is pitching. Keep my hands inside the ball. For me to be able to keep my hands inside the pitch that was way inside, that's definitely a good sign."
In the eighth, Span scored on a double by Anthony Rendon off Phillies right-hander Ken Giles. Jayson Werth doubled off the right-center-field wall, scoring Rendon. Werth later scored on a Jake Diekman wild pitch.
After Strasburg left, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano held the Phillies scoreless the rest of the way.