On Tuesday afternoon, Strasburg allowed four runs in four innings in a 6-1 loss to San Diego, three of those runs in the first inning after three dawdling Nats allowed a simple popup to drop for a “double.” After the game, Manager Davey Johnson listed Strasburg’s hardships, including a brief rain delay with two outs, a full count and the bases loaded in the first that was followed by a two-run single on his first pitch after the rain.
Then Johnson volunteered another factor at his news conference. “The Hot Stuff on Stras,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how it got where it got, but it wasn’t comfortable. . . . Somehow it got the wrong place.”
When asked for additional details, pitching coach Steve McCatty said, “I’m not gonna touch that.”
Said Strasburg: “We’ll keep that in the clubhouse.”
Surely, this is the end of the Nats’ spring-long imitation of the afflictions of Job. After this, all that’s left is an outbreak of biblical boils.
Johnson blames himself. Just before every game, he tries to remember to say a quick prayer that “nobody on either club gets hurt and may the best team win.” He has done it for years. But sometimes, he forgets.
“I must not be sayin’ that prayer enough,” he said, shaking his head. “This is getting ridiculous. This team is beat up more than any one I’ve ever had.” So far, he hasn’t been tempted to try luck-changing superstitions like “sacrifice a chicken. I’ve heard it all.”
But don’t rule out the Nats having a Mayan Calendar Giveaway Night.
There may be some hint of Johnson’s future plans in the catcher he chose to bring up on Tuesday: 265-pound Carlos Maldonado. The previous emergency catcher summoned to Washington (Sandy Leon) lasted four innings in his big league debut Monday before being blasted in a collision at home plate that put him on the 15-day disabled list.
“Maybe Carlos is big enough that nobody can hurt him,” Johnson said.
How bad is this Nats blight? It’s now 500 lost games and counting. That is the best ballpark guess, so far, on the damage to the Nats this spring from disabled-list injuries to Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman, Brad Lidge, Mark DeRosa and Chien-Ming Wang — all players who were projected as part of their opening day roster.
Those players include three heart-of-the-order bats, the Nats’ closer, their starting catcher, a potential starter and two key bench vets. And that 500-game guess assumes everybody makes smooth recoveries with Wang back in two weeks, Morse in three weeks, Storen in July and Werth in August.