There was a familiar face at the heart of several celebratory scrums and sprayings of champagne and beer, one who hasn’t climbed on a mound for the Washington Nationals since Sept. 7. Stephen Strasburg was every bit a part of the Nationals’ exhilaration after the team clinched the National League East title on Monday night.
Though his furiously debated innings limit has kept him off the field for the rest of the season, Strasburg soaked in the joy like the rest of his teammates.
“This is a dream come true,” he said, standing on the field with raucous fans still cheering on the celebrations nearly thirty minutes after their 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. “It’s great to be winners. The bottom line, I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Strasburg wanted to be part of the Nationals’ success from beginning to end. He didn’t want to stop throwing but knew that the team wanted him to pitch only so many innings in his first full season back after having elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2010. Strasburg pitched 1591 / 3 innings before being shut down and had to sit and watch as Washington clinched the division.
“Stephen’s a huge part of this. We’re not here without Stephen,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s the No. 1 on the team with the best record in baseball and the National League East champs. So he’s a huge part of this thing that’s going on here, and will be for a long time to come.”
Strasburg will, as he has since his shutdown, stick with the team for the rest of the season’s ride. He gave the Nationals 15 wins in 28 starts, 197 strikeouts and earned an all-star selection. He was a vital part of why they were standing on the field at Nationals Park on Monday drenching everyone in sight with beer and champagne.
“Nothing makes me happier than to see a guy like that that’s worked so hard and bounced back like that and give his team a chance to go out and give us 15 wins, you deserve champagne,” fellow starter Gio Gonzalez said. “In fact, you deserve five bottles of Dom Perignon.”
“When the fans are wearing your jersey even when you’re not playing that lets you know what kind of person you are to this stadium and what you mean to this organization,” Gonzalez added.
Next year, Strasburg hopes not only to be a part of the celebrations but part of the victories late in the season, too. For now, however, he feels as much a part of the team as every other player.
“We’re in it together,” Strasburg said. “Just to see everything come about and give the fans of D.C. an NL East division champ, it’s awesome. So we still got a long way to go and we’re excited to be going to the playoffs.”