Skip to content

The Nats are on the brink, but let’s not blame the absence of Stephen Strasburg

Oct 10, 2012, 4:56 PM EDT

Ryan Zimmerman strikeout

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Nationals had the best record in baseball and the best rotation heading into the postseason. But now, after consecutive awful outings by the pitching staff, the Cards lead the Nats 2-1 in this best of five series. They lost 8-0 today.

Edwin Jackson was shaky out of the chute, and gave up four runs on eight hits. He settled down a bit, but as he made way for the bullpen, the fire began to rage again, and before it was all done the Cards had hung eight on the Nats. Pete Kozma‘s three-run homer in the second was the big blow, but the Cardinals ended up needing only one run to secure the win.

The hittability of Nats pitchers led broadcasters Bob Costas and Jim Kaat to note the absence of Stephen Strasburg. And to note that his absence will turn into serious heat on Mike Rizzo and the Nats brass should Washington go on to lose this series.  I think they’re right about that.  And indeed, anyone who has read this blog over the past few months knows that I disagreed with the Nats shutting down Strasburg too. But let me say this: the way the Nats are losing this series shouldn’t bring any more heat on Rizzo for the Strasburg shutdown than he’s otherwise getting.

The Nats won Game 1 with Gio Gonzalez. They lost Games 2 and 3 due to poor outings from Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson. Guess what: barring a sweep, all three of those pitchers would have gotten starts in the NLDS. They needed Jackson and Zimmermann to pitch well even if Strasburg was there. They didn’t. The biggest difference will be seen in Game 4 when Ross Detwiler gets the nod, but his presence has yet to damage Washington’s chances.

Beyond the poor outings from Zimmermann and Jackson, the real culprit here has been the Nationals’ somnambulistic offense.  Washington was shut out today, leaving scads of runners on base — I counted 11. On Monday they were down 7-1 before the bats woke up. Even in the win on Saturday they scored only three. You can’t give up 22 runs in three games and expect good things, but you gotta score some runs yourself too, you know.

So no, I’m not changing my mind about the Stephen Strasburg shutdown. I still think it’s a bad call to willingly deprive yourself of your best pitcher entering a playoff series. And if the difference in this series ends up being one solid pitching performance, I’ll be willing to entertain the notion that Strasburg was as critical as people will soon be saying.  But, as it is right now, let’s not pretend that Stephen Strasburg’s absence is the difference here.  The Nats are in serious trouble, and it is because of a total team failure, not because of some front office decision.

Oh, it also has a lot to do with the fact that the Cardinals — who just so happen to be the defending World Series champions — are a good baseball team who have gotten strong performances from just about everyone. Let us not lose sight of that when everyone rushes to blame the outcome of this series on the absence of Stephen Strasburg.

Latest Posts
  1. Ian Kinsler replaces teammate Victor Martinez on the AL All-Star Roster

    Jul 11, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    Ian Kinsler Ian Kinsler

    The AL Roster swaps one injured Tiger for a healthy one. Ian Kinsler will replace Victor Martinez.

  2. Pirates don’t plan to activate Gerrit Cole from the DL when eligible

    Jul 11, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT

    Gerrit Cole Gerrit Cole

    Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t expect Gerrit Cole to return to the club shortly after the All-Star break.

  3. Miguel Montero to replace Yadier Molina on the NL All-Star roster

    Jul 11, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT

    Miguel Montero Miguel Montero

    Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy will start for the NL All-Stars after all. Miguel Montero makes the roster, taking the place of the injured Yadier Molina.

  4. Giants activate Marco Scutaro from DL, designate Brandon Hicks for assignment

    Jul 11, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    Marco Scutaro Marco Scutaro

    Marco Scutaro could make his 2014 debut on Friday night off of the bench. He will be inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday.

  5. Diamondbacks activate Mark Trumbo from the 15-day disabled list

    Jul 11, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Mark Trumbo Mark Trumbo

    Mark Trumbo has returned to the Diamondbacks a little sooner than anticipated.

  6. Mariners call up Justin Smoak, place Michael Saunders on the disabled list

    Jul 11, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    Justin Smoak Justin Smoak

    Michael Saunders is out with a strained oblique, and Justin Smoak is back in the major leagues after a stint at Triple-A.

  7. Rockies activate Carlos Gonzalez from the 15-day disabled list

    Jul 11, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Brewers v Colorado Rockies Getty Images

    More than a month after going on the disabled list with a left finger injury, Carlos Gonzalez returns to the Rockies lineup for Friday’s game against the Twins.

  8. The Mets’ Single-A affiliate is trading season tickets for LeBron James Heat jerseys

    Jul 11, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat Getty Images

    The Mets’ Single-A affiliate, located in St. Lucie, Florida, knows just what to do with the LeBron James jerseys Heat fans no longer want.

  9. Jerry Sands needs season-ending wrist surgery

    Jul 11, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT

    Jerry Sands Rays Getty Images

    Jerry Sands was in line for expanded playing time for the Rays when he went down with a wrist injury three weeks ago and today the team announced that he’ll require season-ending surgery.

  10. Rangers sign Jerome Williams

    Jul 11, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT

    Jerome Williams Getty Getty Images

    Released earlier this week by the Astros, right-hander Jerome Williams has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Rangers.

  11. Ubaldo Jimenez hurt his ankle stepping in a hole, so the Orioles are calling up Kevin Gausman

    Jul 11, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    Kevin Gausman Kevin Gausman

    “He stepped in a hole in the parking lot” is a new one, as far as weird injuries go.

  12. Masahiro Tanaka apologizes for being hurt

    Jul 11, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Masahiro Tanaka Getty Images

    Not something you see players do every day.

  13. Joe Kelly rejoins the Cardinals for his first start since April

    Jul 11, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT

    Joe Kelly Getty Getty Images

    Joe Kelly is back off the disabled list and ready to rejoin the Cardinals’ rotation tonight against the Brewers after missing the past two-plus months with a hamstring injury that was supposed to involve a much speedier recovery.

  14. Grady Sizemore is playing center field and leading off in his Phillies debut

    Jul 11, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Grady Sizemore Getty Getty Images

    Philadelphia’s usual center fielder and leadoff man, Ben Revere, is out of the starting lineup for the second straight game because of an ankle injury.

  15. Rangers catcher Geovany Soto arrested for marijuana possession

    Jul 11, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT

    Geovany Soto

    Too bad he didn’t sign with Seattle or Colorado.

  16. Yadier Molina replacement? Cardinals claim George Kottaras off waivers from Indians

    Jul 11, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT

    kottaras getty Getty Images

    They may still make another move to add catching help following news that Yadier Molina will be out 8-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament, but in the meantime the Cardinals have claimed veteran catcher George Kottaras off waivers from the Indians.

  17. Yankees acquire Jeff Francis from A’s

    Jul 11, 2014, 1:48 PM EDT

    Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs Getty Images

    Needing some emergency pitching depth following the Masahiro Tanaka injury news, the Yankees have acquired veteran left-hander Jeff Francis from the A’s.

  18. Marlon Byrd has a four-team no-trade clause. Here are the teams.

    Jul 11, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    Marlon Byrd Marlon Byrd

    Including one that is actually interested in Byrd.

Featured video

Yanks, Cards and Reds hit with injury bug
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. C. Gonzalez (2561)
  2. J. Votto (2522)
  3. E. Encarnacion (2389)
  4. M. Tanaka (2380)
  5. R. Braun (2264)