Postgame analysis of the Nats 5-4 extra-inning win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
How it happened: There aren’t many moments over the course of a season where an in-game development transcends a walk-off victory. For the Nationals, Wednesday’s tilt against the Braves provided that moment — in the worst of ways.
Stephen Strasburg, who made his return start following a disabled-list stint, was removed from the game in the third inning after suffering an apparent arm injury. The 28-year-old right hander was seen grimacing after throwing a 92-mph fastball high and outside, drawing attention of the Nats’ medical staff before he was taken out.
In what was supposed to be the beginning of Strasburg’s three-week ramp up period before the postseason, fans left Nats Park Wednesday night wondering if they’ll see him pitch again in 2016.
As for the game itself, the the two clubs scored a run apiece over the first five innings before the Braves broke the tie in the sixth on a Tyler Flowers RBI groundout. An inning later, Atlanta padded its lead thanks to Dansby Swanson solo shot, his second home run in as many days.
But the Nats battled back late, leveling the game in the seventh on a two-RBI single by Daniel Murphy, and doing so again in the 10th thanks to an RBI single by Anthony Rendon to make it 4-4. The breakthrough finally happened in the 11th when Wilson Ramos hit a game-ending single to complete the Nats’ sweep of the Braves.
What it means: The win raises the Nats’ record to 82-57. And though the Mets won in Cincinnati, Washington's magic number to clinch the division falls to 15.
What’s next for Strasburg? At this moment, not much is known about Strasburg’s latest injury. But when he was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 22 with elbow soreness, it had marked the first time he suffered an arm-related setback since his Tommy John surgery in 2010. He said at the time of the injury that he was having issues recovering between starts since the All-Star break, but that he wasn’t bothered during his outings. Time will tell if the current issue is related to the previous one, but it’s not farfetched to think there could be some correlation. If it’s as bad as it looked on replay, the Nats’ rotation just took a serious blow. Stay tuned.
Giolito’s velocity issues continue: After Sean Burnett finished off the third inning immediately following Strasburg’s departure, Dusty Baker leaned on Lucas Giolito to serve as his long man. The 22-year-old threw 3 1/3 frames of two-run ball, not allowing the game to get away before the late innings. However, the most glaring thing about his outing was his fastball velocity remained down. He was consistently in the low-90s — a far cry from the the heater pundits were raving about during his minor league career. At what point should the Nats be concerned that the 2012 first-rounder isn’t displaying the type of stuff at the major-league level that they thought he would?
Murphy keeping it 100: With his seventh-inning single, Daniel Murphy notched RBIs No. 99 and 100, yet another offensive milestone in his breakout first season with the Nats. It seems the only question with Murphy these days if if he’ll be able to put together a strong enough September to strengthen his NL MVP case.
Up next: The Nats will begin the first of a four-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. Washington will send A.J. Cole (1-1, 3.86 ERA) to the mound, who will be opposed by Alec Asher (0-0, 0.00 ERA).