When it comes to being snake bit in the stretch of the pennant race, it’s going to be hard to beat the story that Washington Nationals‘ Stephen Strasburg will get to tell his grandchildren about the last two Septembers.
A couple of hours before Friday night’s game with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, Strasburg was shut down due to “tightness and discomfort” in his throwing arm. Manager Davey Johnson told reporters it was caused by Strasburg’s “working on a new pitch,” and when those same reporters pressed Johnson about what pitch it was, Johnson refused to say, telling them he did not want to tip off scouts.
Johnson later said he hopes to have Strasburg back by “Sept. 19” but, given their caution about him in the past, that’s doubtful. The Nationals are taking a cautious approach to the feeding and care of Strasburg, but maybe it’s too cautious, given their slight wild card hopes.
Whatever, it came about a year and a week after Strasburg was shut down on Sept. 7, 2012 because he had already pitched too many innings going into that month. Somewhere, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver are all rolling their eyes. The great pitchers of the 1960’s did not worry about pitch counts or tightness and discomfort, they just pitched.
These days, however, a pitcher like Strasburg is a long-term investment, and the Nationals have definitely been taking a long-term view. Even though both the National and Phillies were in the same spot after the all-star break – the Nationals were a game over .500 and the Phillies right at .500 — the Nationals have surged to 77-69 and entered Friday only 5.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the final wild card spot.
Without Strasburg, an already difficult September ahead became a nearly impossible one, and the pitcher himself must be wondering if he’ll ever get to see a postseason.