Washington Nationals Reaction: It’s Time to Worry About Stephen Strasburg

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After being taken out of Saturday’s game, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg sat on the bench, staring stoically forward. When the third inning finally ended, he calmly stood and disappeared into the clubhouse, leaving the rest of the team to be alone. It was another disastrous outing in a season that so far has not resembled at all the sort of dominance expected from the 26-year-old. Now, the Nationals are left with more questions about what to expect going forward.

Saturday afternoon’s game against the Phillies was actually supposed to be a game that Strasburg could use to get back on track. Various injuries to this point have nagged at the Nationals former number one pick, keeping him from pitching to the level that he’s pitched at over the last several seasons. While he’s struggled to keep his head above water, Nats fans have been forced to remain patient and wait for him to get right.

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Unfortunately, the waiting game continues. Strasburg was pounded for six runs, five of them earned, over just 3.2 innings. After working through the first two innings with little trouble, the Phillies hammered Strasburg for four in the third and another two in the fourth before he finally gave way to A.J. Cole.

Now, after nine starts, Strasburg is the owner of a 3-5 record and an ERA of 6.50, both low points for his career. He’s given up at least three runs in six of his starts. Nationals fans have to wonder whether this is just an extended slump caused mostly by injuries or if it’s something to be worried about.

All signs right now point to the latter. Strasburg has shown no signs of getting any better. He’s continued to leave pitches out over the plate, and he’s failed to miss bats in spite of being able to do so effectively in years prior. At this point, it may be time to start wondering whether or not some time off to rest and get his mind right. The Nationals can’t go into the postseason with Strasburg struggling, especially considering the injury to Doug Fister and the way Gio Gonzalez is pitching.

If there was a bright spot for the Nationals on Saturday, it was the bullpen. A.J. Cole was able to take over Tanner Roark‘s role in long relief. While he wasn’t perfect (he surrendered two runs, both earned), he was able to give them 4.1 innings and he kept the team from having to dig into the bullpen. With Roark going on Tuesday, it looks like the Nationals have found a capable replacement until Fister returns to the lineup.

It was also nice to finally see Casey Janssen get into a game. Janssen pitched a perfect ninth inning. Hopefully his presence acts a stabilizing force and allows the bullpen to return to dominance for the rest of the season.

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