The Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves tonight for just the third time in eight games against their divisional rivals this season. The big news out of Turner Field, however, was that 24-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg was lifted after just two innings on the mound with what the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reported several innings later during game was a "lower back" issue. Once the first game of three with the Braves ended, with the Nats winning, 3-2, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson spoke to reporters about the injury which led him to take Strasburg off the mound in spite of the pitcher's objections.
"It was a great win," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said, "but Stras is a big loss. He had a strained oblique. And he wanted to continue, he was wincing in a whole lot of pain and I was not so much worried about his back as I was worried about his arm. Any time you have something like that you worry about putting more stress on your arm. And he's going to fly back to D.C. and be examined by our doctors."
The Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick was noticeably uncomfortable on the mound in the second inning, clenching his teeth after some pitches, rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck after others and after two innings and just 37 pitches, the Nationals' manager, pitching coach and trainer decided they had seen enough. "Hopefully -- it's similar to what [Ross] Detwiler has," Johnson said, "except it's on his throwing arm side."
Johnson went on to explain that Strasburg felt discomfort before the game began. "He was complaining of discomfort warming up," the skipper said, "and it was more severe than it was the last time out. He's a gamer. He wanted to continue. But something like that -- and I saw him wincing every [throw] he made -- and even [catcher Kurt] Suzuki gave the sign, you know, like, 'It's not real good.' But I'm not going to take a chance with his arm. That's the main concern. I mean, the side will heal, but when you try to do too much with your hose out there it's dangerous, so, he was not going to continue."
"[I've] been feeling it the last few starts," Strasburg told reporters after the game. "And Davey and [trainer] Lee [Kuntz] thought it was a good decision to come out of the game and not let it progress any more."
"He had some discomfort but he thought he would loosen up," Davey Johnson said. "He said to me, 'It will loosen up,' but not when it was that severe it's not going to loosen up. And he was throwing the ball good, and I sure would have liked to have continued with him, but it wasn't going to happen." It had loosened up in previous starts. "He had a little bit of the symptoms and it loosened up for him," Johnson explained, "but he wasn't wincing like he was today. Let's just hope this settles down and he's able to continue throwing. Our doctors will let us know."
"The last few starts I'd feel it kind of like warming up," Strasburg said, "and I'd go out there and I wouldn't feel anything. Where tonight it was kind of like the reverse, where I felt really good in the bullpen and then threw a couple pitches in there and started to kind of feel it a little bit more and more and nothing I can do about it. I'm kind of frustrated, because obviously you want to come out here and give at least seven or eight innings a start, but just thankful that [Craig] Stammen was able to come in and pick me up and [win] the first one." Stammen threw four hitless in relief, then Tyler Clippard gave up a run in his inning of work before Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano locked down the win.
Strasburg admitted that the injury was affecting his delivery as Davey Johnson worried. "I think that was kind of affecting the way that I was finishing everything. So, it's kind of hard when you know what you're going to feel after the pitch. And you just try to go out there and try and trick your mind into thinking that it's not going to happen, but it is what it is. So, I mean, I can't do anything about it, just got to take the next step and go back up to D.C. and have [team physician Wiemi Douoguih] look at it and see what happens."
The Nationals' starter said he could have continued if he'd been allowed to keep going. "Honestly," Strasburg said, "I could have gone out there and kept pitching. Obviously my command wasn't there, but I think I could have definitely pitched through it and gone out there, but like I said, Davey didn't want to take the chance and you've just got to be proactive about it and get the treatment and hopefully I should be able to make the next start."
It's another on a long list of injuries. Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth are on the DL with hamstring injuries. Ross Detwiler's DL'd with an injured oblique. Bryce Harper's reportedly likely to land on the DL with his injured left knee. So did Davey Johnson have a "Here we go again," reaction to Strasburg's injury? "We seem to be having all kinds of problems," Johnson said, "But we'll get through it and hopefully Stras won't miss too much time."