Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, right, walks with a member of the training … [+] staff as he heads to the dugout after leaving the game during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg faces season-ending surgery in the coming days or weeks, and his injury could not come at a worse time for the team that has been marred by a bad start for the second consecutive season.
In just two appearances this season, Strasburg pitched only five innings and accumulated a 10.80 ERA by allowing six earned runs against just two strikeouts. He recorded just two outs in his last outing on Aug. 14 before it was clear something was wrong.
Strasburg’s injury is listed as carpal tunnel neuritis, and it’s affecting his throwing hand enough that he will need surgery to correct it.
Last year’s World Series MVP has essentially been unavailable this season, and his absence is reflected in the team’s 11-15 record following Monday’s loss to Miami.
Aside from Max Scherzer (2-1, 4.31 ERA) and Patrick Corbin (2-2, 3.99), who also have not been stellar, the Nationals have relied on a heavy dose of Austin Voth (0-2, 5.00), Aníbal Sánchez (1-3, 6.48) and some patchwork bullpen appearances that have derailed Washington’s chances of staying in games. Erick Fedde has started twice (five appearances overall) and sports a 2.55 ERA, making him a bright spot of sorts for the pitching staff.
Closer Sean Doolittle (15.00 ERA) is on the 10-day injured list with right knee tendinitis and the team’s best setup man/sometimes closer Daniel Hudson has struggled (6.30 ERA through 10 games). Ryne Harper (8.25 ERA) and Wander Suero (5.19) have had tough outings, while Tanner Rainey (0.75 ERA; just two hits allowed in 12 innings) and Javy Guerra (2.79 ERA) have, like Fedde, been pleasantly effective.
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws a pitch to the Baltimore Orioles … [+] during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
All told, Strasburg’s injury hits a team that can ill afford many more poor appearances from its pitchers. In a shortened season, Strasburg’s absence will be even more pronounced.
With Monday’s loss, Washington dropped four games behind NL East-leading Atlanta with barely over half the season left to play.
The good news for Washington is that nobody is running away with the division and the team proved last year that it can overcome a slow start. But the turnaround needs to come quickly in what is now essentially a 34-game season.
Juan Soto is having a tremendous season so far (he went 4-for-5 on Monday), but he is just one of three Nationals to have five or more home runs so far. With 32 total this year, Washington is in the bottom third of MLB in the category. The Nats are among the leaders in batting average, and they have the third-fewest strikeouts in MLB this season, but they are in the bottom half of runs scored.
Put another way, in the event that a pitcher cannot keep the team in a game, Washington’s offense so far hasn’t shown the ability to make up for it.
Strasburg is in the first year of a seven-year, $245 million contract he signed during the offseason. In his nearly 10 years of experience in the majors, he has been one of the most important Nationals every single season.
His importance was compounded during this short season, and now the team will have to make do without him.
Without Strasburg, Washington will need to find a way to steady the rotation and come up with more timely hitting if they have any hope of defending last season’s World Series championship.
I am a sports reporter based in Washington, D.C., where I also freelance for various newspapers and The Associated Press. I’ve worked at newspapers in Virginia and North
I am a sports reporter based in Washington, D.C., where I also freelance for various newspapers and The Associated Press. I’ve worked at newspapers in Virginia and North Dakota—covering everything from high-level college basketball to rodeo and 9-man football. I am a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, where I earned undergraduate degrees in journalism and sociology and a master’s degree in sociological practice. At Forbes, I am excited to examine the financial matters of the Washington Wizards and Washington Nationals, plus anything else fun that the nation’s capital has to offer.
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