Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg brought the Nationals to the cusp of the World Series with a dominating performance vs. the Cardinals in Game 3. But will the Cardinals’ bats wake up in Game 4? | Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

Stephen Strasburg brought the Nationals to the cusp of the World Series with another dominant performance in Game 3 of the NLCS

This is what all the hype was about. The attention he got when still in college. The minor league games broadcast on national TV. It was all building up to this moment.

Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype on Monday night in the most important game in Nationals franchise history. The right-hander went seven innings against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS, striking out 12 without a walk and allowing only an unearned run to lead Washington to an 8-1 win. The Nationals now lead the best-of-seven series 3-0 and are a win away from their first trip to the World Series.

Record-setting performance

The Nationals have been waiting the better part of a decade for Strasburg to have a start as he did on Monday at Nationals Park. He became the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least seven shutout innings while striking out 12 without giving up a walk. Cardinals batters were so baffled by his curveball that they watched it go past them for a strike 15 times. They swung and missed at his changeup 12 times and didn’t manage a hit off of it. His fastball sat consistently in the mid-90s, reaching as high as 96 m.p.h.

Strasburg isn’t usually an emotional player, so it’s no surprise that he didn’t seem too impressed with his outing after the game.

“I mean, you take it one game at a time,” he said. “You know, you’re at this point in the season where you just leave it all out there on the field, take whatever happens. You just try to take it one pitch at a time, you know, go as long as you can. So really it comes down to making pitches.”

Strasburg is quickly building a resume to rival any postseason pitcher in history. His ERA in seven career games, six of them starts, is 1.10. Among pitchers with at least 40 innings, he’s behind only three Hall of Famers: Mariano Rivera, Sandy Koufax, and Christy Mathewson. His strikeout rate of 35.6 percent is the highest by any starting pitcher. Half of his outs this postseason (33 of 66) have come via the strikeout. He’s striking out 32 batters for every walk, which would be the highest mark in postseason history by a wide margin (Cliff Lee is second at 23.5).

Cardinals bats have gone cold

For as great as the Nationals have been this series, they’re getting help from the Cardinals anemic offense. St. Louis has scored only twice through the first three games and is batting just .121 as a team. Nationals starters have yet to give up an earned run.

The Cardinals will have to contend with Patrick Corbin in Game 4. The left-hander was brilliant in his first start this postseason, holding the Dodgers to one run over six innings in Game 1 of the NLDS. He’s also retired all five batters he’s faced in his last two appearances out of the bullpen.

Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and Strasburg have completely shut down the Cardinals in this series, and Corbin has the potential to do the same thing. In 16 starts at home this season, Corbin went 8-2 with a 2.40 ERA, holding opponents to a .199 average. Left-handers are batting just .190 off him in 2019. The Cardinals already don’t have a hit yet in this series from a left-hander, but they must solve Corbin if they hope to stave off elimination on Tuesday.

The Nationals can advance to the Fall Classic with a win in Game 4 on Tuesday. For Strasburg, it would be the next step in a career journey that began with so much promise a decade ago. Monday’s performance was one that tends to live on when legacies are discussed well after a player retires. But, after all, he was built for this moment.

This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.

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