There are few things more valuable in sports than a shutdown starting pitcher standing on the mound, looking down the biggest bats in the league without fear.
The Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg did just that Wednesday night, pitching a nine-inning shutout that included leaving baseball's current home run king Giancarlo Stanton with an 0-4 line. That alone would be enough to brag about, but Strasburg took things a step further.
The strong outing from Strasburg helped the Nationals complete a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins, padding the huge lead they have in the National League East with the playoffs inching closer. There was something else spectacular about Strasburg's big game, though.
When a pitcher hits a home run people celebrate it. Pitchers aren't supposed to be much when they step into the batter's box, but Strasburg was a dual-threat against Miami. Not only was he sitting down the Marlins, he was sending out a dinger.
Strasburg joined rare company in becoming the 24th pitcher in 38 MLB seasons to both hit a home run and shut out an opponent for at least nine innings. This strange but amazing feat last happened in 2015, with Madison Bumgarner launching one over the fence while dominating on the mound.
Strasburg stepped up to the plate as the leadoff hitter and decided it was time to unleash the hammer. He cocked back and swung for the fences, sending Adam Conley's pitch to a far away land. The Nationals were all over this moment on social media:
Pitchers hitting homers is a majestic moment on a baseball diamond, and Strasburg did so while also tossing 110 pitches on the night, allowing just six hits and no runs. It was a dominant night all around for Strasburg, capped off with a home run.
To be fair, though, few things are more mesmerizing than watching an ace pitcher go to work while he's in the zone, and Strasburg was in the zone. He notched eight strikeouts while shutting out the Marlins, a dominant game all around.
Swing and a miss central, here we come, thanks to some nifty highlights from the Nationals:
The Nationals are enjoying an incredible season, with the only team ahead of them in the entire MLB being the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers. With Strasburg coming back strong after missing four weeks due to a right elbow injury, Washington should see smooth sailing heading into the posteason as one of baseball's best teams.