When Stephen Strasburg takes the mound tonight at Double-A Harrisburg, pitching in the minors for the final time this season, he will find himself in an odd position. His primary goal is to ready himself for his Sept. 6 return to the majors, and the Nationals will handle him with caution, capping him at five innings or 80 pitches, whichever comes first.
But he'll also have a chance to put his teammates in position to celebrate a division title.
Harrisburg can clinch the Western Division of the Eastern League with a win tonight, and as pitchers go, they could do worse in a clinching situation than putting Strasburg on the mound. He's as competitive as they come, and while tonight is about a rehab start first and foremost, you can bet he'll thrive on the extra edge that comes with the chance to send a team to a division championship.
The Nationals have kept all of Strasburg's rehab starts at home for their minor league affiliates, partially to add some extra control to the situation, but also to provide a financial windfall for their affiliates. They have as good a relationship with Harrisburg as any of their minor league clubs, and the confluence of Strasburg and a division title sets up quite a night for the Senators.
MASNsports.com will have plenty more from Harrisburg this evening, so check back throughout the night.