With Stephen Strasburg hitting the DL again, the Nationals must prove they can dig themselves out of another hole

If the Washington Nationals are going to make a run at winning the NL East for the third straight year, they’re going to have to do it without Stephen Strasburg for the near future. The big right-hander was placed on the 10-day disabled list Thursday (retroactive to July 22) with a pinched nerve in his neck per the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes.


Strasburg had just one start between DL stints

Strasburg, 30, was first placed on the DL on June 9 due to shoulder inflammation, and he proceeded to miss over a month. When he returned July 20, he struggled mightily, giving up six runs in just four and two-thirds innings against the Braves. To make matters worse, Strasburg got in a shouting match with ace Max Scherzer in the dugout following the outing. The two eventually headed to the clubhouse together to talk things out.

The incident was representative of the frustrating season as a whole. The Nationals have battled a litany of injuries, many of their best players — notably Bryce Harper — have underachieved, and rookie manager Dave Martinez has taken a lot of heat. The team is currently 50-51, trailing the Phillies by seven games and the Braves by six in the NL East. Washington won the East easily in both of the past two seasons, winning 95 games in 2016 and 97 in 2017, both under Dusty Baker.

The Nationals just can’t get things right

Back on July 4, the Nationals had a players-only meeting in an attempt to right the ship. It worked the following day when the Nationals overcame a nine-run deficit to beat the Marlins. But it hasn’t been a long-term fix: The team is just 7-8 since that remarkable comeback. And while the Strasburg vs. Scherzer yelling match might have been the lowest low to that point, Trea Turner topped that on Monday by not running out a bunt. Turner was benched the following day and has been scuffling over the past several weeks.

With Strasburg (6-7, 3.90 ERA) out, Tommy Milone will get the start Thursday afternoon against the Marlins. The Nationals’ starting lineup outside Scherzer and Jeremy Hellickson has underachieved, and top pitching prospect Erick Fedde remains out with shoulder inflammation. Washington starters have a 4.88 ERA this month, 13th in the NL. Milone will be the 10th Nationals pitcher to start a game this year.

Washington also placed third baseman Anthony Rendon on the paternity list Thursday morning, per the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo. Rendon is slashing .284/.347/.514 and is one of the best defenders in baseball.

These moves couldn’t have come at a worse time. If the Nationals are going to make any noise in the playoff hunt, they have to start now. They open a four-game series with Miami on Thursday night and then take on the Mets and the Reds — both teams last in their division — before a four-game slate with the Braves in Washington.

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Stephen Strasburg is back on the DL. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)