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Wouldn't you smile if you could throw a baseball like Stephen Strasburg?
This is more like it. Now we're talking.
Here's a bona fide ace who will likely be on this list throughout the season, if not at the very top of it.
The Washington Nationals hold first place in the NL East almost entirely on the strength of their starting pitching. They have no other way to win games, due to a lineup that's so poor at scoring runs that the team had to push the Bryce Harper button far sooner than anyone expected.
The Nats' starting rotation leads the majors with a 2.06 ERA. And that rotation is anchored by Stephen Strasburg, whose 1.13 ERA is also the best in the big leagues.
If there were any doubts as to whether D.C. still had an ace in Strasburg's first full season back after Tommy John surgery, he's quieted those questions.
Only two other starting pitchers have more strikeouts so far than Strasburg's 34. And neither of them have fewer than his six walks.
Every fifth day during baseball season is still "Strasmas" in D.C., whether Nats fans come out to celebrate the occasion at Nationals Park or not.
The only thing that might hold Strasburg back from a truly memorable season is his team. General manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson have been clear about their intention to hold Strasburg to an innings limit. While they won't put a number on it, the limit is understood to be 150-160 innings.
Strasburg hasn't pitched a full year in the majors and never exceeded more than 123 for a total season. Pushing him to his limits could be dangerous for his future, and the Nats are smart to keep that under heavy consideration.
But if the Nats stay in the playoff race, it's difficult to believe that the team won't do something to try and make Strasburg available for the stretch drive. And the postseason, if the Nats make it that far.
Though that decision could cost Strasburg a Cy Young Award this year, it's reasonable to presume that he'll be in the running for several years to come.
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