By Ricky Carioti – TWP

“He knows a storm of criticism is coming,” Bob Costas said of Mike Rizzo in the waning moments of Wednesday’s Game 3. “Some of it will come after this game, but more of it will come if they lose this series.”

Indeed, it’s enough to make my transcribing fingers shake with dread. Not long after Costas said that, the Nats lost, and Strasburg talk led PTI, with Tony Kornheiser using Ken Rosenthal’s column as a jumping-off point.

“Wilbon, Strasburg isn’t pitching, and they’re one game from eliminaton now,” Kornheiser said. “Shouldn’t the Nats get past the ghost of Stephen Strasburg?”

“Well, they should, but it’s an interesting ghost,” Michael Wilbon answered. “Because he’s sitting in uniform, in the dugout.”

“Yes he is, yes he is,” Kornheiser agreed.

“And so they should get past him, but I don’t think they can,” Wilbon continued. “Look, I understand limiting his pitches. And you can do that, I thought, more creatively….I think it’s impossible to not think of Stephen Strasburg as the ace and the No. 1, Gio Gonzalez pitches second. You push guys down in the order, and I think they could beat the Cardinals with Strasburg.”

“I give you all that, but even without Strasburg, the spine of this team all year has been starting pitching,” Kornheiser said. “And now in three straight games, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson, none of their starters got into the sixth inning. So that is very bad….”

“The day that Strasburg was shut down, I thought the only team the Nationals cannot beat are the St. Louis Cardinals,” Wilbon said to finish the segment. “They’re the champions. But you know what, the Nationals still have two games if necessary, at home. At home.”

Okay, nothing there that should particularly fire up any partisans on either side. The point is more that, for better or worse, the Nats are in the playoffs, and the lead story on a popular national show is once again about a guy who isn’t even playing. No, not Mark DeRosa.

(As for Wilbon, in case anyone cares, I have no hard feelings whatsoever from anything he wrote last week. I still think he’s a prince of a guy. Sincerely. And he wrote something of an apology to D.C. sports fans, which you can read here if you haven’t yet.)