It's been a long time coming for Stephen Strasburg.
The Washington Nationals' prized young arm recorded his first 200+ strikeout season in his last start against San Francisco. Now, the former number one overall pick out of San Diego State is alone in the Nationals' young franchise history.
Strasburg fanned his 208th batter of the season on Saturday night in Safeco Field - a significant total that now leaves him alone at the top for most strikeouts in Nats' history. Strasburg unseeded a member of the team's current rotation, Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez struck out a franchise-high 207 batters in a 2012 season when he won 21 games and accumulated a 4.5 WAR in just less than 200 innings. Strasburg now has 210 punch outs in just 183 frames this season.
The record-setting strikeout came against Robinson Cano to lead off the sixth inning Saturday night at Safeco. Strasburg came up with one of his finest starts of the season in yet another Washington win. The hard-throwing righty pushed his record over .500 with 7.2 innings where he allowed just six hits and one earned run. He struck out eight and did not walk a Mariner.
The man who has been considered Washington's ace - despite a strong supporting cast of pitchers who could easily make a claim of their own - did not allow that one run until the eighth inning. Dustin Ackley took Strasburg deep with two outs and nobody on in the eighth. The solo shot ended Strasburg's night just short of eight complete, but the Nats' 'pen had little trouble protecting the lead.
Nats shut the door
Matt Thornton got the last out in the eighth and Rafael Soriano closed the door in the ninth for his 30th save. He did allow the potential game-winning run to reach the plate after allowing two hits, but he struck out a batter and did not end up allowing a run in the inning. The win got the Nationals an even 20 games above .500 with a 77-57 record.
Strasburg should have plenty of opportunity to add to this record strikeout mark with a month left in the season. Now free of any innings limit that held him back in 2012, the big righty looks to take his successful season full steam ahead into the playoffs, where the Nationals are almost certainly heading.
Washington holds a seven-game lead in the National League East Division.