Stephen Strasburg may be running out of things to prove at Double-A. On Tuesday, he answered one more question: He can hit too.
Strasburg, continuously under the microscope as the Minor Leagues' top prospect, threw five hitless innings and struck out six in his fourth start as Double-A Harrisburg blanked Reading, 1-0, in the first game of a doubleheader.
The right-hander lowered his ERA to 0.52 in perhaps his strongest outing to date. He also helped himself at the plate, knocking in the game's lone run with a single in the fifth inning.
"I was just really happy to hit the ball," Strasburg told MLB.com.
On the mound, he was overpowering again, allowing one baserunner -- on a passed ball -- over five frames to pick up his third victory in four starts.
"I'm happy with where I'm at right now," Strasburg said. "I've got to stick with the program here. I've got to keep an eye on building off the previous start."
When will Strasburg get promoted? The Nationals front office has been hesitant to set any dates or speculate on his immediate future, but the 21-year-old right-hander's numbers are hard to ignore. He has allowed one earned run in his four starts and has held opponents to one hit over his last 10 innings.
"When the time comes, I'll be very excited," Strasburg said. "But I'm living in the now and focusing on tomorrow and what I have to do to get ready."
"I've learned a lot, this team's got a great coaching staff," he added.
Strasburg cruised in his second road outing, fanning Tyson Gillies to open the bottom of the first inning, the first of 13 consecutive batters set down. Reading managed a baserunner in the fifth when Mike Spidale reached after striking out on a passed ball that got by Sean Rooney.
"If I'm not commanding all my pitches, I'm not going to throw offspeed if I can't throw for a strike," Strasburg said. "I think that was the main thing I was able to do tonight, keep the ball down and work in and out."
The San Diego State product induced grounders from Brandon Pinckney and Kevin Nelson to end the fifth and his evening.
The stellar outing came six days after Strasburg allowed one hit over five innings against Reading. This start was pushed back after Monday's series opener was rained out. He lines up to face Bowie next on Monday, May 3.
Fellow first-round pick Drew Storen, recovering from a case of strep throat, came on to pitch the sixth and lost the no-hit bid when he allowed a leadoff single to Ozzie Chavez. He ended up yielding two hits over two frames to pick up his fourth save.
Storen, who struck out three, owns an 0.96 ERA and is tied for second in the Eastern League in saves.
Reading starter Michael Cisco did his part to keep up with Strasburg, taking a no-hit bid into the fifth. He ran into trouble when Rooney doubled and Strasburg lined an RBI single up the middle.
Phillies closer Brad Lidge was strong in what may be his final rehab appearance, striking out four over two shutout frames for Reading.
"That kind of arm doesn't come around very often," Lidge said of Strasburg. "It's not very often you see a guy be able to throw that hard with that kind of command of his offspeed pitches."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.