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The Nationals have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season, and given the talented roster they have, their success is no fluke.
Their biggest asset is the dominant pitching staff, led by phenom Stephen Strasburg, who has gone 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 99 innings pitched. He's returned to his dominant form following Tommy John surgery last season, but the team remains careful with their young ace.
The organization has indicated that it will shut the 23-year-old down this season after 160-to-170 innings of work, and they have held firm on that stance since the beginning of the season.
At six innings per start, that would be roughly 10 more starts before his season is over, and the big question is, will the Nationals hold to that if they are still in first place come September?
My guess is, yes and no. It won't be as simple as him making 10 more starts and being done for the season. The Nationals will get creative in finding ways to extend his season, giving him off days and shuffling their rotation whenever possible to get him an extra day off.
At the end of the day, I think he'll pitch somewhere around 180 innings this season and remain in the rotation through season's end. If, at that time, they are in the postseason, I think all bets are off and they look to ride him to a title.