WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 07: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on September 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
3.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 Ks, 2 HRs allowed, 67 pitches, 37 strikes. Safe to say it was not the final home start of the year that Stephen Strasburg expected. Before tonight's game, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters what he and D.C. GM Mike Rizzo have been saying all along. The decision to shut the 24-year-old right-hander down was taken out of Strasburg's hands because being the competitor that he is he'd keep pitching and do everything he could to help the Nats' win.
"He's a part of this team and he wants to be helping to the end," Johnson said, "He doesn't want to let the team down. That's the emotional part and the professional part on his side. He's willing to risk it being his last year to have that and I understand that, but it's our job to make sure he's not another Mark Prior or [Kerry] Wood." According to what the manager said after tonight's game, his pitcher was affected by the news he officially received earlier this week in the big shutdown sitdown Strasburg had with Johnson, Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty.
"To be honest," the Nats' skipper told reporters after tonight's extra innings loss to the Miami Marlins, "I think he just was thinking too much about the decision that we're going to shut him down and he kind of wore it. Didn't like it. But that's the way it is."
"I think he wasn't focused as much on the game as he was on the impending shutdown," the Nationals' manager explained. "That's just the way I read it." Though he said he hadn't spoken to Strasburg, Johnson said, "I can understand where he's at. Even in the conversations that I had with him, he was having trouble sleeping, thinking about letting the guys down. So I can understand his mood."
The plan as it was explained both to Strasburg and the media earlier this week was for Strasburg to make two more starts. Tonight's against Miami and one more on the road in New York next week. Asked what if anything he can do to try to avoid the same thing happening on Wednesday in Citi Field, Johnson said simply, "That's just something I'll have to address." It was the second rough outing against Miami for Strasburg in the last two starts against the Nationals' NL East rivals who've collected 15 hits and 12 runs, 10 earned against a pitcher who'd held them scoreless over 27.0-straight innings before the August 28th game in Miami and tonight's in the nation's capital.
With one start to go according to the plan that was announced earlier this week, Strasburg is now (15-6) with a 3.16 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 48 walks (2.71 BB/9) and 197 Ks (11.13 K/9) in 28 starts and 159.1 IP this season. Could the abbreviated outing affect those plans? When Davey Johnson was asked after tonight's loss, the answer he gave left everyone wondering just when Strasburg's season will actually end.
Reporter: "Does Strasburg's shorter outing today affect anything with [his season ending] Wednesday?"
Davey Johnson: "It might."
Strasburg, for his part, blamed his troubles on lack of command of his fastball. "I didn't command the fastball," the pitcher told reporters after the game. "I kept on getting behind in the counts and I keep falling behind. I wasn't able to use my other pitches effectively and they teed off on me a little bit." Asked directly if it was the shutdown weighing on him, the right-hander said clearly, "No. I just don't think I pitched well." The Nats' starter wasn't willing to blame any of his issues on the shutdown decision. "I think as a professional you want to go out there and give it everything you have every single time out. So, that's what I wanted to go out there and do. Unfortunately it wasn't good enough."
Asked about his manager's comments about the short outing possibly changing future plans, Strasburg said his next start was his primary concern. "I'm going to focus on the next start," he told reporters.