Stephen Strasburg's Historically Great Game 4 Performance Was a Continuation of His Dominant Second Half

Strasburg's gem in Game 4 of the NLDS will go down as one of the greatest performances ever by a pitcher, and he's now put up a zero in 65 of his last 66 innings pitched.

If Stephen Strasburg is sick, I'd like to be exposed to whatever it was he was exposed to.

In the hours before the start of Game 4 of the Nats' NLDS series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Strasburg's health and desire to pitch under adverse circumstances were called into question by some in the media. He was criticized for not wanting to pitch through illness in a do-or-die game, a game in which a loss would resulted in yet another Washington first-round exit.

His heart and desire were placed in doubt. Then, Strasburg went out and did this.

Pitching with what was described as either flu-like symptoms or a negative reaction to a high mold count in Chicago, Strasburg tossed 7 shutout innings and gave up just 3 hits with 2 walks and 12 strikeouts in the must-win affair. That effort, along with the addition of a Michael Taylor grand slam in the eight inning, sent the series back to the nation's capital for a deciding Game 5 tonight.

Last night's epic performance comes on the heels of his terrific start in Game 1 -- in which he also went seven innings and gave up no earned runs (the 2 runs he allowed were unearned) on 3 hits with 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. In the two games in this series, he has hurled (no pun intended) 14 innings and gave up zero earned runs and 6 hits with 22 strikeouts and 3 walks.

No offense to Tanner Roark, but he can't do that.

Strasburg's October dominance is a continuation of a ridiculous second half of the regular season in which he went from being a really good starting pitcher to one of the best in the game. In 10 starts after the All-Star break (62 2/3 innings pitched), he had an ERA of 0.86 and gave up 6 earned runs with 76 strikeouts and 14 walks.

Among starters with at least 60 innings pitched in the second half, his 0.86 ERA was far and away the best in baseball. The next closest was the likely American League Cy Young winner for this year, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians, at a 1.79 ERA.

In Game 5, a less-than-100% Strasburg relied on his changeup more, throwing it 32 times out of his 106 pitches. That 30.1% changeup percentage was his highest single-game mark out of any start this season and far higher than his season average of 18.9%. It worked as he recorded eight punchouts on that pitch.

Now, the Nationals must get ready for a winner-take-all Game 5 at home. As of this writing, manager Dusty Baker has not decided whether it will be Roark or Gio Gonzalez taking the mound tonight. Gonzalez finished with the fifth-best ERA among qualified starters in the National League this season (2.96), while Roark posted a 4.67 ERA in 181 1/3 innings. The choice seems clear. The Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks, who went toe-to-toe with Strasburg in Game 1 of this series and posted a 3.03 ERA in 24 starts this season.

The Nationals still aren't hitting the ball (a post-season low .130 average and .493 OPS through four games), but they have a chance to put their NLDS demons behind them -- our models give the Nats a 54.57% chance to win tonight, making them slight favorites -- thanks to Strasburg's historically great Game 4 outing.