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Nationals' Stephen Strasburg scratched with upper back strain, expected to make next start

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Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg was scratched from Monday night's scheduled start against the LA Dodgers, but Nats' skipper Dusty Baker said after the game that he hoped Strasburg would be okay to make his next start.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, Stephen Strasburg left a start against the Cincinnati Reds in Great American Ball Park after just 5 ⅓ innings pitched with cramping in his right calf.

Other than that, the 27-year-old, 2009 No. 1 overall pick has been healthy since last season, whe he returned from his second DL stint of the 2015 campaign.

He suffered an ankle sprain last Spring which he and the Nationals believe led to mechanical issues and back issues.

"We found out, we had an idea yesterday, but our trainers were working on him and they worked on him all day yesterday and they worked on him today..." -Dusty Baker on Stephen Strasburg's upper back strain, scratch

Since returning to the mound last August, he's lost just two of 24 starts, with the Nationals 22-2 in his outings.

Once healthy, he dominated opposing hitters last season, going 6-2 over his final 10 starts, putting up a 1.90 ERA and a .179/.206/.306 line against in 66 ⅓ innings pitched.

He picked up where he left off this season, going (10-0) in his first fourteen starts, with the Nats 13-1 in his outings, over which he had a 2.90 ERA and a .220/.275/.346 line against in 93 IP before tonight.

Strasburg signed a seven-year, $175M extension last month, choosing to remain in the nation's capital rather than test the free agent market this winter, in a rare move for a Scott Boras' client that was player-driven according to everyone involved.

Everything seemed to be going his way, and he was headed into a marquee matchup with Los Angeles Dodgers' left-hander Clayton Kershaw on Monday night, but about 45 minutes before the scheduled start time of the series opener in Dodger Stadium, Strasburg was scratched with an upper back strain.

After the game, a 4-1 loss, Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker talked to reporters about the injury, explaining that Strasburg hurt his back working out.

"We found out, we had an idea yesterday," Baker explained, "but our trainers were working on him and they worked on him all day yesterday and they worked on him today, so we were even thinking about it at five o'clock, but he still felt it in there.

"We were eager to see it also," Baker said. "But we couldn't risk losing this guy for a period of time just because we were eager to see it." -Dusty Baker on scheduled Strasburg/Kershaw matchup not happening

"We thought it was best that he doesn't pitch, because we've got a long way to go and we don't think it's serious and we're hoping that he makes his next start."

So how did the injury happen?

"He was working out. He works out pretty vigorously and he was working out on his off day, one of the off days he wasn't pitching, so it was something to do in his rib cage, so we thought that it was best that he didn't pitch."

The matchup would have been a unique one if Strasburg and Kershaw had gone head-to-head, with the Nationals mentioning before the game that it would have been the first pitching matchup in over 100 years featuring two starters with double-digit win totals this early (by date) in a season.

Baker talked before the game about being excited to see the showdown too, but the Nationals made the decision to scratch Strasburg.

"We were eager to see it also," Baker said. "But we couldn't risk losing this guy for a period of time just because we were eager to see it. We've got to do what's best of the ballclub and best for the team."

Baker was asked if Strasburg will just slot in when he's better or wait for his next turn in the rotation to come around?

"We're hoping that he makes his next start, which would be six days from now."

Yusmeiro Petit filled in admirably for Strasburg, giving the Nationals six innings to spare the bullpen from extra work and Kershaw did his thing, improving to (W, 11-1) on the season with the win, giving up one run on six hits in seven innings in which he struck out eight batters.

We talked about Strasburg's back issue, Kershaw's start and listening to Vin Scully on the latest edition of Nats Nightly: