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Strasburg leaves Nats win with injury

Aug 30, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT

USA Today

For the second time in a span of four days, the Nationals won a game that was defined by an unfortunate injury to one of their best players. On Thursday, they beat the Padres but lost Denard Span. Michael Taylor and Yunel Escobar also left the game banged up.

It was a pyrrhic victory. They won, but they also lost. Time will tell if Sunday’s game will follow the same path.

The Nats beat the Marlins 7-4 on Sunday, but saw Stephen Strasburg exit after throwing just 60 pitches through four innings. His problem? The same upper back discomfort that landed him on the disabled list in late May.

Strasburg was off and his velocity was down. Clearly he was not the same pitcher who had a 1.73 ERA in four starts since coming off the DL.

But exactly why that was the case was not revealed until afterwards when manager Matt Williams gave an explanation.

“He had some discomfort in his upper back. So a little bit of a recurrence of earlier in the year,” Williams said. “He had a little bit of discomfort his last inning and showed us that when he was reaching, when he was following through, it just was uncomfortable again. We decided to get him out of the ballgame at that point.”

Williams said Strasburg will be re-evaluated over the next few days to determine if another DL stint is needed. But Strasburg is hopeful that will not be necessary. The right-hander said he felt something similar after his last start on Aug. 25 and was able to correct it in the following days with help from the team’s medical staff.

“I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Last time it kind of crept up. It was literally, I got the treatment and then in one to two days it felt normal. I think it’s just something that I’m going to have to grind through and get through the year and then figure out exactly what it is in the offseason,” he said.

Strasburg described the injury as a “ball” in his upper back. The Nats know where it is, but exactly how to cure it has become a mystery.

“We’ve had the tests and it’s not really like a muscular thing,” Strasburg explained. “It’s kind of just like this ball. It’s strange. It’s not a cyst. It’s just kind of this little knot that is just like there and it doesn’t really hurt to the tough. Sometimes when it gets a little pissed off, just with the grind of throwing and everything, it just kind of causes everything else around it to get a little upset, too. Last time it kind of flared up, I treated it and it felt great very quickly after that.”

This recent injury for Strasburg, a recurring ailment, is a continuation of what has been a long year of minor health problems for the former No. 1 overall pick. Strasburg first hurt his left ankle in spring training and that caused him to alter his pitching mechanics. Those changes caused him to compensate and his upper back tightened up. He left the team’s May 5 loss to the Marlins with discomfort under his right shoulder blade.

Strasburg made four more starts before going on the disabled list for the first time this season. That was on May 30 when he was diagnosed with a left trapezius strain. He was sidelined for over three weeks before returning on June 23 to face the Braves.

Strasburg would make three starts after coming back from the trap injury before he went down again. He was removed after just one inning against the Giants on July 4 and was placed on the DL the following day with a left oblique strain.

Strasburg missed another month, but came back to pitch brilliantly over the last four weeks. This is another setback in what has become a trying year for the former All-Star who finished ninth in NL Cy Young voting in 2014.

“To be honest, it’s been tough. But I think it’s going to make me stronger as a person and as a player. It’s not the way I drew it up, but everything happens for a reason. I’m just going to keep grinding. I’m not going to quit. I know that it’s all going to come out in the wash eventually,” he said.

Strasburg’s next scheduled start is Sept. 4 at home against the Atlanta Braves. He will travel with the Nationals to St. Louis as they take on the Cardinals and test his back in a bullpen session. From there the Nats will know if Strasburg can remain in their rotation, or if they will have to overcome yet another injury to one of their most important players this season.

  1. alexva6 - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    nobody said this was going to be easy.

  2. natsfan1a - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:39 PM


  3. natfan33 - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:44 PM

    Why would he travel to St Louis? Why not keep him here for treatment?

    • virginiascopist - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:50 PM

      That’s my question as well. Going to St. Louis just so McCatty or someone can watch his bullpen session?

  4. npb99 - Aug 30, 2015 at 8:12 PM

    It would really, really help if Scherzer can figure out what’s his problem and fix it. We desperately need reliable starters.

  5. jfmii - Aug 30, 2015 at 8:35 PM


  6. derwink - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:07 PM

    Is Roark stretched out yet? He may be needed before Ross hits his inning limit, unfortunately.

    • ehay2k - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:22 PM

      At least we got the win. Need to keep it going. As for Roark, I think i heard one of the radio announcers say Roark has to stay down for a minimum of 10 (?) days unless someone goes on the DL.

      • derwink - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:38 PM

        True about the win.

        I wished that Roark made the starting rotation out of spring training. I probably would’ve bumped Gonzalez to do so. Hindsigh being 20/20, Roark instead of Fister would’ve been the logical call. It’d be interesting to see where the Nats would be at today in terms of record and Games Behind.

        But what do I know, I would’ve cut Danny Espinosa…glad to be wrong regarding Danny and glad that he’s had such a good year. I’m sure his trade value has gone up quite a bit.

      • NatsLady - Aug 31, 2015 at 7:44 AM

        Watching Danny play, even if he hit the Mendoza line, I don’t think you cut him. He’s a defensive genius, and to be able to plug him in for late innings or injuries is priceless.

  7. fpa4356 - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    Reportedly (ESPN) Gioncarlo Stanton will be ready to play on Friday against the Mets.

  8. tcostant - Aug 30, 2015 at 9:20 PM

    I think we can by one day before rosters expand. DL is not likely since we are so close to 9/1

  9. edgs3rd1978 - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:36 AM

    Wow! Ross being shut down, Roark to minors, Scherzer going through mid-life crisis, Gio sucking and Stras to dl. Must be tough being a nat fan.

    • nats106 - Aug 31, 2015 at 8:15 AM

      It’s easy to be a fan of any team when they are doing great. It gets a little tougher when the team struggles. Thanks for your concern.

    • natsjackinfl - Aug 31, 2015 at 9:39 AM

      Not really. Only tough on bandwaggoners and trills.

    • janebeard - Aug 31, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      Roark to the minors is a GOOD thing. They’re getting hm ready to be a starter again. Gotta be hard for Doug, who WAS a starter and is now in the bp.

  10. Section 222 - Aug 31, 2015 at 12:59 AM

    Very nice win, especially after Stras put us in a hole. But the Mets have to lose too for us to catch up. MMN is 28. They have 32 games to play.

  11. richardp6 - Aug 31, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    Is Escobar ready to play tonight? I have him in my fantasy league and need to commit to him for the week by noon.

  12. Guapo - Aug 31, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    Glassburg was terrific while he lasted. Maybe he should consider being a closer? Less wear/tear on his arm from an innings standpoint?

    • therealjohnc - Aug 31, 2015 at 4:50 PM

      You do know that he averaged about 200 innings a season for the past two seasons, right? Second on the team behind only Jordan Zimmermann (Strasburg led the team in innings pitched in 2013, JZim in 2014). And that until this season Strasburg had not had any serious health issues since the UCL injury in 2010, right?

      All pitchers are significant injury risks. Every single one.

      Putting aside the poor foundation of your original criticism, Strasburg-as-closer seems like it would be a pretty terrible idea. Strasburg often struggles in his first inning or so of work; one of his more unusual attributes as a pitcher is that his splits against don’t really change as he goes through a batting order – in fact, his numbers are better facing an opponent the second (.624 OPS against) or third time (.641) versus the first (.646). That’s f’n weird, actually. Compare that with Scherzer (.654 first time through, .712 second time, .692 third time), for example. Gio is much more typical for most MLB pitchers, with an OPS that goes steadily up from the first time (.654) to the second time (.689) to the third time (.706) facing a batter.

      It seems to me that putting Strasburg at closer would be a way of minimizing what he does well while maximizing that which he does less well (he doesn’t really do anything poorly, just less well).





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