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Strasburg meets with Nats brass

Strasburg meets with Nats brass

The Nationals purposely told Stephen Strasburg as little as possible all season about their plan to prematurely shut him down -- aside from the fact they would shut him down at some point -- to keep the right-hander from thinking too much about how many innings he had left in his arm before the inevitable end.

Now that the end has nearly arrived, team officials understood it was time to have the conversation they had delayed to this point.

So Strasburg sat down this morning with general manager Mike Rizzo, manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty and was told in no uncertain terms he'll be shut down after two more starts (scheduled to take place Friday against the Marlins at Nationals Park and Sept. 12 against the Mets in New York).

Strasburg voiced his desire to continue pitching beyond the 170 innings or so he'll be held to, according to Johnson, but ultimately will accept the organization's decision.

"It's no secret that Stras is an intense competitor, wants to be here, wants to be contributing, wants to be helping," Johnson said. "And I'm sure it's probably eating him up more than anybody involved in this whole thing, because he wants to be here and help his teammates. He's worked harder than anybody coming back from Tommy John surgery, and this is what you dream about being a part of. I know how he feels."

Does Strasburg -- who tossed six scoreless innings yesterday to lower his ERA to 2.95 while raising his league-leading strikeout total to 195 -- understand what the Nationals are trying to do?

"Probably not," Johnson said. "I'm not sure any of us understand, but it's the right thing to do. The way I look at things, I don't think the job the Lerners and the front office have done building this organization, I don't look at this as the only chance you're going to get to be in the postseason or be in the World Series. This team wasn't just piece-mealed together for one year. It's built to last. And we're trying to make sure it lasts."

He may not agree with the decision, but Strasburg has known all along he wouldn't be allowed to finish the season on the mound. He said Sunday he won't abandon his teammates down the stretch, though, and will support them from the dugout.

"I'm in with these guys," he said. "We still have a long way to go. I'm going to fight with them to the end."

Johnson has heard all the criticisms from across the baseball -- and sometimes other sports -- world but insists the Nationals ultimately know what's best for their young ace and that he has properly used him all season.

"He's not a No. 5 starter. He's a No. 1 starter," Johnson said. "It's more detrimental and more haphazard to miss a start, push him back, push him back. That's more dangerous for the health of a pitcher. This is his first full year in the big leagues. It's a big increase in innings. There's tons of records to validate this decision."

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

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USA Today Sports

What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

Following a dicey matchup between the Nats and Braves Friday night which featured a heated argument between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are getting a much-needed opportunity to regroup.

The Washington Nationals' official Twitter account announced that Saturday evening's matchup will be postponed due to inclement weather just after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The Nationals had planned to host "JMU Night" at the ballpark as a part of their "College Day" series, and due to more forecasted inclement weather Sunday, the Nationals decided to call the game off sooner rather than later.

The Nationals have yet to announce when the game will be made up.

If Sunday's game is played as scheduled, Max Scherzer will start.

This post will be updated when more information regarding a makeup date has been announced.

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