|Strasburg near history as Nats try to thwart Marlins' sweep|
By early Sunday afternoon, if all goes as expected, Stephen Strasburg will be the Washington Nationals' career leader in innings pitched.
Strasburg, who needs just two more innings to pass ex-Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez for that honor, will face the host Miami Marlins in Sunday's series finale.
Washington will try to avoid a sweep against the last-place Marlins, who beat the Nationals 3-2 on Friday and 9-3 on Saturday.
Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, has had an excellent career, going 95-53 with a 3.18 ERA.
Yet, the 30-year-old has been criticized in the D.C. area due to his tendency to miss starts because of injuries. The last time he had a full season was in 2014, when he went 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA in 34 starts. Since then, he made 23 starts in 2015, 24 in 2016, 28 in 2017 and 22 in 2018.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the perception that Strasburg doesn't care enough is wrong.
"He focuses inward with his competitiveness," Rizzo told The Washington Post. "He doesn't show it outwardly, but he wants to be a workhorse and an innings-eater."
The Marlins have had a long (and mostly miserable) history against Strasburg.
In 31 career games against the Marlins, Strasburg is 17-7 with a 3.02 ERA and one shutout. In those 173 innings, he has 182 strikeouts.
At Marlins Park, Strasburg is 7-5 with a 3.84 ERA. Last year, with the Marlins having traded away most of their hitting stars, Strasburg was dominant, going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts against Miami.
This year, however, Strasburg is off to a slow start, sporting a 1-1 record and a 5.56 ERA. He has just one quality start in four outings, even though his strikeout-walk ratio is superb at 28-7 in 22 2/3 innings.
On Sunday, Strasburg will face Marlins right-hander Trevor Richards (0-2, 3.57 ERA), who broke into the majors last season despite going undrafted and having battled his way up from his original starting point, an independent league.
Richards, 25, has made 29 career starts, going 4-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 149 innings.
By now, every scout in the league knows about Richards' killer changeup, which he throws 36.1 percent of the time. He continues to master that pitch, which led three straight quality starts to begin this season.
However, in Richards' most recent start, Chicago Cubs batters were able to lay off his changeup out of the zone. Because of that discipline, the Cubs were able to score five runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings against Richards.
The Marlins, who fired their hitting coach, Mike Pagliarulo, after Friday's game, are hoping to support Richards in improved fashion. Miami played with zest on Saturday, using hit-and-runs, stealing three bases, banging out 11 hits and getting a long ball from Curtis Granderson.
Perhaps new hitting coach Jeff Livesey and his assistant, Eric Duncan, could have a positive impact on the Marlins.
"You look at the makeup of our club, and we feel like we can do better," Marlins general manager Michael Hill said after firing Pagliarulo late Friday night. "We've been an easy team to pitch to because of our approach. We weren't making the necessary adjustments. We weren't battling and fighting, and we felt like it was time for a new voice."
--Field Level Media