Stephen Strasburg threw six scoreless innings against the Cardinals this afternoon, striking out nine and upping his season innings total to 156 1/3. It was another dominant performance from the Nationals' ace, and his season ERA now sits at 2.94.
Immediately after the game, we learned that Strasburg will only get the ball twice more this season.
Manager Davey Johnson announced that Strasburg will have two more starts before he's shut down, barring some change of plans. That means Strasburg's final scheduled start of 2012 will come in New York against the Mets on Sept. 12.
"We had our parameters in place at the beginning of the season, we had our philosophies and our protocols," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "That seems like the right number of innings to end his season.
"It depends on the same thing it's always depended on. When we feel that he's had enough in and around that area of innings, and we take into account all the things we've talked about taking into account, stressful innings, pitches, and that type of thing, then we'll make that decision and shut him down."
The Nationals still have not sat down with Strasburg and informed him of the exact plan, but it's been set in place. Strasburg clearly won't be thrilled with the decision, but Rizzo expects his 24-year-old ace to accept it.
"I don't think he's going to fight me on it," Rizzo said. "I think he's going to be unhappy about it. I know he'll be unhappy about it. He is an ultimate competitor, but we've taken that out of his hands. This is a developmental decision and it ultimately falls on the doorstep of the general manager and we've made it. We've made it five months ago and we're going to stick to it."
Strasburg will have one more home start, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7 against the Marlins. He'll then watch from the dugout as the Nationals make the push for the playoffs without him.
The Nationals have gotten a lot of push-back from outsiders on this issue because of the success that the team is having this season and Strasburg's status as one of the top young pitchers in the game. But Rizzo has said all along that he's going to hold strong on this decision and that won't change because of outside criticism or because the Nats are making a run towards a division title.
"It is a debatable subject, but most of the people who have weighed in on this know about 10 percent of the information that we know, that we've made our opinion and based it on," Rizzo said.
"We've been consistent with every player in the developmental system and we've treated them all the same and with as much care as Stephen Strasburg. Just because we're in a different position in the standings, we're not going to forgo my philosophy of player development and keeping pitchers healthy and we've been consistent with it throughout."
With the Nationals possessing the top starting rotation ERA in the majors, Rizzo feels the Nats have enough depth to make a good run even without their ace. That's one of the reasons why he says he's as good with this decision now as he was the day he made it.
"The plan was in place and it couldn't have gone any better, he's pitched extremely well," Rizzo said. "A couple more starts under his belt and it will really lay a solid foundation for 2013 for him where he can take the ball and run with it and win a lot of games for us."