Strasburg leaves after two innings (with injury update)

ATLANTA - This can’t be good.

Stephen Strasburg has been pulled from tonight’s game after just two innings with an apparent injury. Craig Stammen is now on to work the third inning for the Nationals, who will now have to deal with another injury issue, this one to their ace.

Strasburg faced the minimum in the first inning tonight, getting a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Justin Upton to end the inning.

He then surrendered a long solo home run to Freddie Freeman leading off the second, but bounced back to set down the next three hitters he faced, including strikeouts of Evan Gattis and Dan Uggla.

During that second inning, however, Strasburg was seen moving his shoulders around a good bit, rolling them around in a circular motion and looking uncomfortable. He appeared to be wincing after throwing a pitch at one point.

Strasburg’s first six fastballs of the second inning were all 96-98 mph. After getting Gattis for the first out of the inning, Strasburg’s velocity dropped a tad. His final six fastballs thrown were all in the 93-95 mph range.

After getting Uggla looking to end the second, Strasburg walked back to the dugout and was met by manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty.

They had a very one-sided conversation with Strasburg, who stood there looking upset as he heard what Johnson and McCatty had to say. Strasburg then had a brief chat with head trainer Lee Kuntz before retreating to the Nats’ clubhouse.

Stammen worked a scoreless third inning for the Nats, who lead 2-1 after three.

The main concern, obviously, is Strasburg, who came into today with a 2.49 ERA this season and had allowed just three earned runs over his last three starts, spanning 23 innings.

The Nationals already have outfielders Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, catcher Wilson Ramos, starter Ross Detwiler and reliever Ryan Mattheus ailing. Now Strasburg has left the game with what appears to be an injury of his own.

I’ll pass along more on Strasburg as we get it.

Update: A source familiar with Strasburg’s condition has confirmed that the right-hander has been diagnosed with a muscular issue in his lower back.

This should allow the Nationals to breathe a sigh of relief. Strasburg is less than three years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and anytime he deals with an injury to his upper body, some will immediately fear the worst - that the elbow is at risk again.

That’s not the case here. Strasburg’s arm is fine, but he’ll have to deal with the lower back issue for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Nats now have a 3-1 lead over the Braves after six innings. Stammen did masterful work, retiring all 12 batters he faced tonight, keeping the Nats on top and saving the rest of the bullpen.

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