We've finally reached a shutdown point for Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg. Nats beat writer William Ladson reports that he'll make his last start on Wednesday, September 12th. Ladson reported the start would be against the Dodgers, but the Nationals play them a week later, so he must have been looking at his calendar wrong. Strasburg's final start will instead be at Citi Field against the Mets, with his second to last start coming this Friday at home against the Marlins.
Strasburg started on Sunday for the Nationals in their 4-3 win over the Cardinals, and he was impressive in rebounding from an awful start on Tuesday against the Marlins. Against the Cardinals, Strasburg threw six shutout innings and allowed only two hits, walking one and striking out nine. Strasburg threw only 97 pitches in the outing, and is at 156 1/3 innings for the season. He'll likely finish between 165 and 170 innings, enough to qualify him for the NL ERA title. To date, Strasburg's 2.94 mark is just outside of the top five in the league, but nearly half a run behind Johnny Cueto's league-leading 2.48.
In six starts this year against the Marlins and Mets, Strasburg has just a 1.50 ERA, striking out 42 and walking only seven in 36 innings. Furthermore, Miami and New York have two of the worst offenses in the NL, especially since the All-Star Break. It could be a great opportunity to pad his stats a little more for a potential Cy Young push. He's currenty fifth among all National League pitchers in fWAR, but a pair of awesome starts combined with faltering from some of the pitchers ahead of him could lead to his candidacy getting bolstered in the eyes of the voters.
As for the impact of the shutdown on the Nationals…well, I really don't think there is much of a significant one for the rest of the regular season. They'll really only be losing three starts from Strasburg, and the team is 29 games above .500 with a seven game lead in the NL East after their win on Sunday. They're really just battling the Reds for the top seed in the playoffs, but with the new wild card rules this year, being in the second position might actually work out better. The winner of the wild card playoff game will actually host the top seed for the first two games of the division series before heading to the top seed's home for the final three games. This could be something that could devastate a team's momentum, and right now in the National League, it seems like the offensively inept Giants would be a better first round matchup than either the Braves or the Cardinals, both of which are more well-rounded and overall dangerous.
At any rate, it's good to finally get a concrete date set for Strasburg's shutdown. All of the wondering about a specific time can now stop, and we can get on with our lives.