PHOENIX -- The Nationals' offense handed Stephen Strasburg a four-run lead in the top of the first inning Sunday afternoon in Arizona, normally an opportunity for the All-Star right-hander to be aggressive and fill up the strike zone. Instead, Strasburg struggled with his command and could not find a groove,
PHOENIX -- The Nationals' offense handed Stephen Strasburg a four-run lead in the top of the first inning Sunday afternoon in Arizona, normally an opportunity for the All-Star right-hander to be aggressive and fill up the strike zone. Instead, Strasburg struggled with his command and could not find a groove, issuing three walks and getting to a few other three-ball counts.
As he labored through two innings and 51 pitches, he kept shaking his hand, and after the Nats' 6-2 win, he said that he had trouble getting loose. He was pulled after the second inning with what he described as an achy forearm and tightness, although he added it was tough to pinpoint. Strasburg left the game as a precaution because he did not want to risk pitching through the issue and making it worse.
"I think it's just something that's still kind of lingering," Strasburg said. "I just want to nip it in the bud now, not miss any time and try to be smart about it."
Strasburg said he believed he could work through it without requiring a stint on the disabled list. He will be further evaluated Tuesday by team doctors when the team returns to Washington, although he said he will not require an MRI or any further tests.
He pointed to the All-Star break as a potential cause for his problem, which threw him off his throwing and treatment program.
"I think my arm is just kind taking a while to get back in the swing of things," he said. "I pitched through it last game and obviously did well, but it's kind of still lingering. I'd rather be smart about it."
Strasburg's exit Sunday was a curious one because, although he struggled with his command, there was no drastic drop in velocity or awkward play that led to his exit. Instead, when Strasburg's spot was due up in the on-deck circle in the third inning, Edwin Jackson was there, prepared to pinch-hit before left-hander Matt Grace took the mound to begin the third inning.
In the midst of the Nationals' bullpen picking up seven innings after Strasburg's injury, left-hander Enny Romero exited the game after feeling a back spasm while issuing a walk to Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh. Romero said he did not feel like he would need a stint on the DL but would see how he felt on Tuesday.
Strasburg is having another strong season, posting a 3.31 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings while avoiding the disabled list. He has battled a few issues -- a back spasm and being hit with a line drive just before the All-Star break -- but still has taken the ball every turn through the rotation, and his health is key for the Nationals in their pursuit of the postseason.
He has stated that his goal is to make it through the season healthy and be there at the end for the Nationals after missing out on two of their three postseason runs.
"That's the ultimate goal this year," Strasburg said. "If getting pulled after a couple innings today is going to put me in a better position to be there, I'll take it."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.