Manager Jim Riggleman said this afternoon that Stephen Strasburg will pitch the Nationals' first game after the All-Star break next Friday against the Marlins, and pitch on a regular schedule after that. Livan Hernandez will have the second start after the break. Riggleman didn't announce any other starters, though he said the Nationals have most of their post-break rotation figured out.
Here's a tentative look at Strasburg's second-half schedule, assuming he has around 11 starts left before he runs out of innings:
7/16 at Florida
7/21 at Cincinnati
7/27 vs Atlanta
8/1 vs Philadelphia
8/6 at Los Angeles
8/12 vs Florida
8/18 at Atlanta
8/23 vs Chicago
8/28 vs St. Louis
9/3 at Pittsburgh
9/8 vs New York (if there are innings left)
Keep in mind, before you buy tickets, that all these things can change with something as simple as rain or an injury.
The Nationals had previously decided to let Strasburg roll on a regular schedule in the second half, rather than trying to stretch his innings to get him through September, with the explanation that it would be too tough to back Strasburg off enough to get him to the end of the season. But Riggleman offered a different explanation this afternoon: He's sending Strasburg and Livan Hernandez, the team's two best starters, out in the first two games of the second half as a message that the team is trying to win.
""We feel like we have a veteran group of everyday players," Riggleman said. "These veteran guys they want to win ballgames. If we don't send out our best right there, early the first two days, then we're sending the wrong message to our ballclub."
He rejected the notion that the Nationals would have handled Strasburg differently had they been in a better position to play meaningful games in September, saying they would have then kept Strasburg out of key games in July and August.
There are a couple of interesting things about this: First, it's an admission that Strasburg is already the ace, which everyone knows but no one has said this definitively. And second, the Nationals are building the second half of their season around a push to win as many games as possible. That certainly doesn't preclude them from trading away a veteran like Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham, but it's certainly not waving a white flag, either.
"We want to win. Our players want to win," Riggleman said. "I think we need to send a message that we're going to try to finish up strong this weekend as best we can and open up as strong as we can after the break."