Quick Links

Bad time for Strasburg's clunker

Bad time for Strasburg's clunker

When he struck out 10 Braves over six brilliant innings last week, everyone wondered if the Nationals really would shut down Stephen Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race.

And when he was tagged for seven runs over five suspect innings last night, everyone suddenly wondered if the Nationals might just shut down their young ace on the spot.

The man who ultimately will make this decision, thankfully, isn't quite as impulsive as fans, media members and the various experts out there ranging from John Smoltz to Terry Bradshaw who all believe they know what's best for Strasburg.

Mike Rizzo wasn't going to prolong Strasburg's season based on one dominant start, and he's not going to cut it short based on one lousy outing.

But make no mistake, it was a lousy outing: seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in only five innings. He exhibited no command of his fastball, couldn't adjust to the Marlins' aggressive approach against him and on more than one occasion lost focus with runners on base. (Letting 36-year-old, 270-pound Carlos Lee steal second without even drawing a throw? Unacceptable.)

Worse was that Strasburg picked the absolute worst time to author the biggest clunker of his career, with the Nationals stuck in a four-game losing streak and desperately needing a win over the last-place Marlins to get themselves back on track.

Instead, Strasburg kick-started the Nationals' worst loss of the season, a 9-0 trouncing that extended this team's skid to five games and moved everybody one step closer to declaring a state of emergency for a ballclub that has avoided adversity all season.

Is it time to panic? No, not yet. It's a five-game losing streak, but the Nationals still hold a comfortable position atop the NL East and haven't let the Braves gain too much ground on them.

But the time to stop the bleeding is now. Another loss in tonight's series finale in Miami would leave the skid at six games and would probably send the Nationals into a tough weekend series with the contending Cardinals with a sense of doubt about themselves for the first time in a long time.

Ross Detwiler: Time to step up and show you can be counted on to win big games down the stretch and beyond.

As for Strasburg, time to put this disaster of a start in the rear-view mirror and focus on Sunday's big outing against St. Louis. The Nationals have no intention of shutting him down after that game -- Davey Johnson has indicated he'll make at least two, maybe three more starts beyond that one -- but he certainly doesn't want to hit his home stretch on a sour note.

Strasburg called last night's game "a big learning experience for me" when speaking to reporters afterward. We'll find out Sunday what exactly the young right-hander learned from the worst start of his career and how he applies it to his next outing.

Quick Links

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

Quick Links

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year