Don't call him the stopper, but that's what he is

Stephen Strasburg doesn't want to be referred to as the Nationals' stopper. He's not a fan of that term.

Strasburg isn't interested in being painted as the top dog on the Nats' pitching staff, the guy that bails the team out of trouble or stops losing streaks in their tracks. He would prefer to just be labeled one of the guys, one piece of an excellent Nationals rotation that is doing incredibly impressive things this season.

The problem for Strasburg is that with each and every start, he further cements himself as that stopper, that go-to guy, that pitcher the Nats want on the mound more than any other. It might not be the title that Strasburg wants, but his results tell the whole story.

Strasburg Dealing White wide.jpgAfter last night's win - a win which Strasburg tallied despite the fact that Nationals hitters only managed three hits and three runs of support off a pitcher making his major league debut - the 23-year-old right-hander now is 9-1 on the season. Of those nine wins, six have now come the day after a Nationals defeat.

The only time this season that Strasburg took the hill after a Nats loss and didn't earn a victory was when Henry Rodriguez blew a save in Los Angeles, spoiling Strasburg's chance at another losing streak-busting outing.

Even more impressively, three of Strasburg's 2012 victories have put an end to a losing streak of at least three games. Last night, it was a stretch of four straight defeats that came to a screeching halt with Strasburg taking the ball.

Those certainly aren't the type of results put up by any old pitcher. That's why manager Davey Johnson says that already, at 23 years of age and with just 35 career starts under his belt, Strasburg is a "true No. 1 (starter)."

As you might expect, Strasburg says he doesn't focus on the team's losing streak or recent performance while on the mound. The team could have won 10 in a row, or they could have lost 10 in a row. Regardless, Strasburg says he approaches each start the same.

"If you let that bother you, you're not going to last long," Strasburg said. "It's out of my control. I can only do as much as I can on the days I pitch, and then other than that, I'm in the dugout pulling for everybody. That's a part of being a teammate and going out trying to support everybody because you're only pitching once every five days. You really can't let all the other stuff affect you when you're not in the game."

Strasburg is tied for the third-most wins in baseball. He leads the majors in strikeouts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is one of the best in the league among starters, which is remarkable for a power pitcher.

But toss that word "stopper" at him, and you'll hear Strasburg dance away from it.

"I'm one guy in the rotation," he says. "Everybody's capable of going out there and getting the job done. I'm happy I was able to keep the team in the ballgame and for us to pull a win out here and hand the ball over to Gio (Gonzalez) to show up tomorrow."

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