Nationals All-Star starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg returned from the disabled list on Wednesday night to face off against the Braves. The return wouldn't last long, however, as Strasburg was forced to leave the game with an apparent injury after just 2 1/3 innings.
After the game, Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Strasburg felt something in the "back of the elbow" and that there was an MRI scheduled for Thursday. So we'll know more about the severity within the next 24 hours, presumably.
Strasburg was actually throwing hard and looking pretty great. He then uncorked a wild pitch, appeared to react in pain and then had a discussion with an athletic trainer. That discussion ended with Strasburg leaving the game, and he appeared to be heading directly down the clubhouse. He was covering the bottom part of his face with his glove, which generally indicates and extreme level of frustration.
Strasburg was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow injury on Aug. 22, but everyone involved -- the team, Strasburg, the training staff, the reporters -- insisted it was a precautionary stint on the DL.
For most of the season, Strasburg has been outstanding. He won his first 13 decisions. Through Aug. 1, he was 15-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings. During the course of that run, he signed a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals, despite his agent Scott Boras having a long history of taking most of his marquee players to free agency.
After that Aug. 1 start, though, Strasburg made three lousy starts. He coughed up 19 runs on 24 hits in just 11 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters slashed .414/.462/.776 against him.
It was at this time that the Nationals opted to DL Strasburg in order to keep him fresh down the stretch. After all, they had a huge lead in the NL East and could afford to see if rest was what he needed.
Instead, it appears Strasburg is actually hurt this time.
Strasburg had Tommy John surgery back in 2010. He's since had various minor injuries, but has made at least 23 starts a season since returning to full-time duty in 2012.
Without Strasburg, the Nationals' rotation obviously takes a big step backward. They still have a pair of Cy Young candidates at the top in Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, but they are diminished behind that duo with a litany of question marks.
Gio Gonzalez has been pretty inconsistent overall and sports a 4.40 ERA. Joe Ross is hurt, though he could be back soon. After a pair of encouraging outings, Reynaldo Lopez has been bad in his last two outings and now has a 5.52 ERA in six starts. A.J. Cole was good last time out, though it's hard to be confident overall in him moving forward as a member of a playoff-type rotation. They could always give big-time prospect Lucas Giolito another crack, but he had a 5.63 ERA in his four big-league starts this year.
Not much can ruin the night of a team sitting 8 1/2 games in first place on Sept. 7. The Strasburg exit would qualify here as one of the rare things that can.
Again, though, we'll know the severity here in the next day or so.