Stephen Strasburg joined his teammates for an off-day workout at
Nationals Park on Tuesday, red socks pulled nearly up to his knees
while tossing baseballs in the outfield a day before the first
postseason game in the nation’s capital in 79 years.
That’s about the extent of activity these days for Strasburg as
the Washington Nationals carry on without their acknowledged ace,
shut down a month ago.
The NL East champions’ opponent right now, the St. Louis
Cardinals, are very much counting on their returning ace, Chris
Carpenter, who has pitched only 17 innings all year. Carpenter will
be on the mound Wednesday afternoon for Game 3 of the NL division
series, facing Washington’s Edwin Jackson. The best-of-five series
is tied at 1.
The 37-year-old Carpenter had surgery in July for a nerve
problem that left his throwing arm and much of the right side of
his body numb. He came back on Sept. 21, and is 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA
in three starts.
”Everybody knows that it wasn’t supposed to happen,” Carpenter
said about the prospect of pitching at all in 2012. ”I put a lot
of work into it, to hopefully have this opportunity. I didn’t know
if I was going to have this opportunity or not – and fortunately, I
He is 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in the postseason for his career.
That includes going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA last year while helping
St. Louis win the World Series; he beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7
for the title.
”Him winning the World Series last year or whenever isn’t going
to do anything for him tomorrow,” Nationals third baseman Ryan
Zimmerman said. ”He’s a great pitcher, and nobody’s taking
anything away from him in that aspect, but tomorrow we’re going to
go out there with our plan and try and do what we’ve done all
Which was good enough to own the best record in the major
leagues at 98-64.
Strasburg played a key role up until his final start, a
three-inning outing on Sept. 7. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009
amateur draft went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA with 197 strikeouts in 159
General manager Mike Rizzo made quite clear all season that his
prized right-hander’s innings would be limited in his first full
season back from Sept. 3, 2010, reconstructive elbow surgery.
”I bet the kid has to be going crazy, being in the situation
where he is,” said Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, who hit
two of his team’s four homers Monday in Game 2. ”He pitched all
regular season, and right now he’s not available for them.”
Unable to put Strasburg on the mound now, the Nationals used
playoff rookies Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in Games 1 and
”The starting pitching, we showed a little inexperience
there,” manager Davey Johnson said. ”I mean, not going right
after hitters – and also not pitching.”
Washington now needs to rebound from that 12-4 loss in Game 2 at
St. Louis, although the Nationals prefer to focus on having taken
one of their two road games at the outset of the series.
Going up against Carpenter will be his former teammate Jackson,
the only starting pitcher on Washington’s roster who ever had
participated in a playoff game before this season. He was a member
of the Cardinals’ championship club in 2011, and his overall
postseason mark is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA.
He went 10-11 this season, but Washington’s record in Jackson’s
starts was only 12-19.
”It’s high expectations on me. I have high expectations on
myself, as well,” the right-hander said. ”This is one of those
games where you go out and you try to lead by example.”
That’s certainly the sort of thing the Cardinals expect from
Carpenter, who won the 2005 Cy Young Award and helped St. Louis win
a title the following year.
His mere presence on the diamond Wednesday is a big deal to his
”I saw that first hand, all the time he spent in the training
room and weight room and getting back to the point, and you can’t
help but feed off that,” said Cardinals center field John Jay, who
made a spectacular wall-crashing catch in Game 2. ”Especially a
guy (who’s) been there before. It would have been easy for him, as
someone who has two rings and he’s made his money in this game, to
say `You know what? I’ll be back next year.’ But he wanted to be
out there for us.”
Strasburg would certainly prefer to still be pitching for
But Rizzo said Tuesday ”there’s no sense of thinking” about
that possibility at this point.
”We love the pitching staff we have. It’s the best pitching
staff in major league baseball, with and without Stephen,” Rizzo
continued, standing near the red-white-and-blue postseason logo
painted on his ballpark’s grass for the first time, ”and these are
the guys that we have in the playoff series, and we’re going to go
forward with them.”
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