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April isn’t even over yet, but it might already be gut-check time for the Washington Nationals.
Their disappointing start to the 2018 season continued Friday with a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then added another potential layer based on some interesting postgame comments made by starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg, who took the loss after allowing five earned runs in 6.1 innings, was unable to mask his frustrations with Washington’s 11-15 start. That led to an interesting comment about the Nationals effort that could easily be viewed as a dig at his teammates.
Strasburg: "I gave it everything I had today, and it wasn't good enough. I'll live with that, and it's a new day tomorrow. If we can get 25 guys to do that, that's going to be huge."
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) April 28, 2018
Strasburg, with fervor, after the game: "As long as we fight til the end. If we do that, then whatever…I gave it everything I had today and it wasn't good enough. I'll live with that, and it's a new day tomorrow. If we can get 25 guys to do that, that's going to be huge."
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) April 28, 2018
That’s the same Strasburg quote presented by two different reporters. One gives a little clearer perspective of his tone, but neither necessarily confirmed that Strasburg was putting the onus on his teammates to step up.
Then again, neither dismisses it either.
“I gave it everything I had today and it wasn’t good enough. I’ll live with that.” That’s a pretty clear endorsement from Strasburg of his own performance. Some would say Strasburg came up short after his teammates gave him a lead twice, only for Strasburg to give it back the next half inning. It was certainly an outing that fell below his standards, but usually when they score four runs he’ll make it hold up.
“If we can get 25 guys to do that…” kinda sounds like Strasburg doesn’t believe all 24 teammates matched his effort, his focus or his intensity.
Perhaps we’re splitting hairs here, but given the Nationals history it’s at least worth putting on the radar and examining as the season moves along.
There’s been in-fighting in Washington before. It even got physical once when Jonathan Papelbon went after Bryce Harper in the dugout. There have been questions about the clubhouse and whether previous managers Davey Johnson, Matt Williams and Dusty Baker had a handle on things. Whether they were able to get everyone on the same page and get the most from a talented roster.
Now that task falls on new manager Davey Martinez, and it appears he’s already being challenged.
With Friday’s loss, the Nationals fell to 5.5 games back in a quickly improving National League East. The Mets, Phillies and Braves are all ahead of them, and none seem likely to go away. With the Central and West divisions looking strong at the top, the Nationals are going to be in a fight just to make the postseason.
Some interesting days and important games lie ahead for Washington. Even if Strasburg wasn’t directly or indirectly calling out his teammates, he’s definitely right that they’ll need all 25 guys on the roster at a given time on top of their game if they hope to be contenders.
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