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McCatty to Strasburg: "You just have to deal with it"

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McCatty to Strasburg: "You just have to deal with it"

PHOENIX — Nobody has been a more trusted resource for Stephen Strasburg since he arrived in the big leagues in 2010 than Steve McCatty, and right now the struggling Strasburg may need nobody more than the Nationals pitching coach.

McCatty’s advice for Strasburg to help get him past the worst prolonged stretch of his career: “You just have to deal with it.”

“That’s all,” he said Wednesday morning at Chase Field. “Keep pushing. I’ve always said: The way you learn is through failing. It’s a struggle all the time. You’ve just got to keep grinding, grinding and grinding. He’s too good.”

Strasburg hasn’t been particularly good in recent weeks, and everything came to a head Tuesday night when the right-hander was crushed for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings by the Diamondbacks, raising his ERA to a shocking 6.06.

MORE NATS: AN EJECTION AND A GRAND SLAM WIN 

“That was just as bad as I’ve seen him, as far as making mistakes with some pitches,” McCatty said. “After 5-6 years, to have one game that was really like that … you’ve got to throw it out the window. You’ve just got to get back out there and trust yourself and make your pitches. That’s all. It’s never fun. It’s never easy. It’s always easier saying it.”

Despite the occasional hiccup along the way, Strasburg had been among baseball’s most-successful starters since his debut. From 2010-2014, his 3.02 ERA ranked eighth among all MLB pitchers with at least 100 games started. His rate of 10.34 strikeouts per nine innings was best in baseball.

That has made his struggles this season all the more striking. His current 6.06 ERA ranks 106th out of 112 qualifying starters in the majors, while his 1.71 WHIP ranks 111th

“And that’s what makes it such a big focus,” McCatty said. “You try not to get too upset by it, but you do notice it, because that doesn’t happen with him very often. But maybe sometimes we should say: ‘Well, he’s pretty good.’ I always say the standards everybody’s thrown for him … when he does have this little spell that he hasn’t had before, it’s like, boom! It’s like a red light goes off. But for a lot of other people, you just say it’s a part of playing. He’s struggling. For him, it’s a little more noticeable because he’s so good. So the tendency is always to expect the most from him. But he’s going to get through it. He’s just got to fight.”

Despite an issue with discomfort under his shoulder blade during his previous start against the Marlins, Strasburg reported no problems Tuesday night. His velocity remained at its normal levels, with a fastball that averaged 97 mph.

But Strasburg’s mechanics continue to be off, possibly a byproduct of a minor ankle sprain he suffered in spring training that made it difficult for him to plant his left foot on a proper line toward the plate when throwing. And those mechanics have led to poor command, so much so Tuesday night that Strasburg wound up resorting to his rarely used slider out of desperation. He threw that pitch nine times, more than his curveball, and wound up serving up a towering home run to Mark Trumbo on it.

“We’ve talked about it and how he’s been throwing it on the side,” McCatty said. “And sometimes in games you’d like to pick and choose your spots to use it. Not that I’ve had a chance to talk to him and catcher Wilson [Ramos] about why they used it so much and who called it. We let those go every once in a while for a period of time. But I’ll find out what their thought was behind it. For me, it was not the right pitches and mistakes with them.”

Strasburg is slated to make his next start Sunday in his hometown of San Diego, and manager Matt Williams said there’s no plan for that to change.

The Nationals simply expect him to snap out of this funk.

“It’s funny, pitching is kind of like hitting. It’s an up-and-down thing,” McCatty said. “You’re not going to be at the top the whole time, but you want to stay as close to it as you can. It’s an up-and-down thing sometimes. You can go out and the first inning you throw, you say, man, it just clicks. Here it is. I feel good.

“Again, I have not sat there and talked with him that much. But I’m sure everybody … my thoughts would tell me you’re being a little more defensive than offensive. But as far as the physical stuff, the velocity, everything is there. He says he feels fine. So just keep going. A few tough starts, you can’t give up because of that. I’m not saying he is. But you just have to battle through it. Everybody does.”

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.