It isn’t often that the conclusion of a 9 game road trip where you finished 7-2 and you averaged 6.8 runs/game comes with such angst and anxiety? But that’s exactly where the Nationals find themselves on their off day today as they head back to DC in the wake of a 6-2 win and series clinching win over the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Sunday.
The bittersweet taste in our mouths comes on the heels of some casualties in the game to two of their best pitchers. Stephen Strasburg was removed after the 2nd inning with what appeared to be a forearm issue, and Enny Romero was removed in the 7th inning with an issue that appeared to be his back. Now we wait, in what feels all too familiar of a position with Strasburg over his career here in DC. Losing Strasburg for some time in the regular season is not the end of the world but lingering shoulder and arm problems could very well signify something more structurally damaging which could be catastrophic. Last year, Strasburg signed a 7 year, $175 million extension with the Nationals. No one denies he has Cy Young stuff but can he be trusted as a top tier starter given his injury history.
On the bright side, the Nationals took the season series from the Diamondbacks 4 games to 2, and moved back to 21 games above .500 while lengthening their lead in the NL East to 12.0 games ahead of the Braves. The Nationals went 7-2 on this road trip, and have a Monday day-off which they will certainly need after a late night plane trip back to Washington, D.C.. before starting a 3 game series with the once first place NL Central leaders, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers now find themselves in a dead heat with the surging Chicago Cubs, who many expected to make this postseason run in the 2nd half of the season.
Another noteworthy moment for the Nats came yesterday when Andrew Stevenson made his MLB debut, pitch hitting in the 6th inning and playing left field. Stevenson got 2 at-bats and hit a grounder and was out on a force-out, and in his 2nd at-bat he worked the count to 3-2 and fouled off several pitches to get it to a 10 pitch at-bat before striking out. He looked very comfortable in the box as you would expect from a player who was playing baseball on national TV at 11-years-old in the Little League World Series.
All things considered, the Nats have to be very pleased with how their 2nd half of the season kicked off after the All-Star break and will look to build on that momentum as they come home to back to back series against the Brewers and Rockies. We’ll keep an eye out on any updates from this ever-growing injury list and hope to see some discernible improvements in the status of Jayson Werth, Kodai Glover, Trea Turner, and Michael A. Taylor in the coming days and weeks.