What’s up with Stephen Strasburg?

Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had to leave a start early due to a spasm in his left calf for the second time in a month after putting up six scoreless innings against Miami Tuesday night.

stephen strasburgNats TV color commentator F.P. Santangelo said it’s the third start, by his counting, that Strasburg has had cut short by the calf muscle issue this season.

My issue isn’t that he had to leave early, but rather, why didn’t he leave earlier?

Watching the broadcast on MASN, it was clear in the sixth that Strasburg (12-4, 2.78 ERA) was not 100 percent, or anywhere near, with the calf.

Santangelo noted in the broadcast that Strasburg wasn’t able to stop himself on his follow-through because of the muscle tightness.

The ailment seemed to have the most effect on his curveballs, which were coming up short with the limited ability to get balance on his delivery.

His fastballs were also touched a bit, down from their usual 94-97 mph to 92-93 mph.

Strasburg got out of the sixth with no damage, and extended his scoreless innings streak to 26 in the process, but there’s a much bigger issue at play here.

The Nationals are on cruise control, with a 16-game lead in the NL East, and a magic number of eight with 25 games to play.

The moment Strasburg showed distress, he should have been out of the game.

Pitching coach Mike Maddux was perched on the top step of the dugout for the sixth inning, and started to take steps toward the mound, before being waved off by Strasburg.

Admirable on the part of Strasburg that he wanted to pitch through it, but he shouldn’t get that call.

It might seem insignificant, the calf issue, but if his calf is a few percent off ideal, and he compensates by putting more pressure on his shoulder, on his elbow, on his left leg, do you see where this is going?

It doesn’t take much to derail a pitcher’s mechanics and in the process his career.

Strasburg is a $27.5 million a year talent. Throw him in there with a healthy Max Scherzer and this year’s Gio Gonzalez, and the suddenly human L.A. Dodgers are very beatable.

Don’t waste his bullets in a gummed up gun on Sept. 5.

Column by Chris Graham

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