Craig Heist, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - After a six-inning, two-hit, nine-strikeout effort in a 4-3 win over the Cardinals on Sunday, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg got another step closer to throwing his last pitch for the 2012 season as the team gets set to shut down their ace.
"I think two starts," manager Davey Johnson said. "Unless I let him pitch 10 [innings] next time out, which I'm not going to do, I think his last start would be on the 12th."
OK, now we have a definitive date and even though Strasburg and Johnson talked about this on their way back from Miami on the plane after Strasburg gave up 7 runs against the Marlins, you still got a feeling after listening to Strasburg Sunday that he still isn't sold on the idea, or at the very least, isn't done talking to the Nationals about it.
"I'm just focused on the next start. That's all I can focus on right now but we're going to have a sit down and talk here soon," Strasburg said.
Strasburg raised his innings total to 156.1 with 195 Strikeouts. He is slated to throw between 160-180 innings.
The plan to shut Strasburg down has been in place since last season with the club already having seen the benefits of shutting down Jordan Zimmermann last season at 161.1 innings. Zimmermann is at 164.2 already and is primed to help this team with its playoff push.
Would the Nationals rather have Strasburg the last three weeks of the season and for the post season? Absolutely. Do they think shutting him down is the way to go? Again, the answer is yes.
GM Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson have said on more than one occasion this season that the decision to shut down the 23-year old is, "coming from people smarter than us," i.e., the medical community and the doctors.
For those who think this puts the Nationals behind the eight ball going toward the post-season, Johnson is quick to point out the Nats have dodged adversity all season long.
"I mean, we didn't have out clean-up hitter (Michael Morse), we didn't have out closer (Drew Storen). We lost out starting catcher (Wilson Ramos) and we lost Jayson Werth for two months," said Johnson.
"We've got John Lannan. He was our most successful pitcher last year. He's 2-0. He's not chopped liver."
It was tough for Strasburg's teammates not to be able to get him a win yesterday after he left with a 2-0 lead. Sean Burnett gave up a two-run homer to Daniel Descalso in the 7th inning to tie the game at 2-2 meaning Strasburg didn't figure in the decision.
"Of course Stras had his good stuff tonight and pitched outstanding. The bullpen wanted to shut it down for him but if you ask anyone in the clubhouse and the W was the most important thing and we got that today," said Nats closer Tyler Clippard who notched his 29th save.
They did win and they think they can keep winning -- Strasburg or no Strasburg.
"This is a decision they made and it is an educated decision," said shortstop Ian Desmond. "We know we're a good ballclub and we've got solid pitching top to bottom and we feel like we can win with anybody on the mound."
If you were fortunate enough to be at Nationals Park on Sunday to watch Strasburg pitch you were treated to vintage Strasburg. He has two more starts left.
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