HOUSTON (AP) — The shutdown that shook baseball paid off for Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.
It just took seven seasons.
Strasburg was voted MVP of the World Series following the Nationals’ 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in Game 7 on Wednesday night, the first title in the 51 seasons of the Washington/Montreal Expos franchise.
Ending the most prolific of 10 big league seasons for the 31-year-old right-hander, Strasburg went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts and one relief appearance, including victories in Games 2 and 6 of the Series.
Long after Strasburg was shut down because of an innings limit following Tommy John surgery, he helped lead the Nationals to the championship.
“I slept like a baby when we made the decision,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday. “I knew more information than the people criticizing. I’ve got a pretty thick skin being in the game this long.”
Selected by Washington with the first pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Strasburg made his first Nationals start a year later and grabbed attention with 14 strikeouts, the most in a big league debut since Houston’s J.R. Richard in 1971. But after Strasburg’s 12th start came the shocking news, three of the most dreaded words in baseball: Tommy John surgery.
Strasburg returned for five abbreviated starts in September 2011 and was 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings when the Nationals cut short his 2012 season on Sept. 8, citing the need to protect his arm. Washington finished with a big league-best 98 wins but without its ace lost to St. Louis in a five-game Division Series.
“What if?” became the team motto, at least for Nationals fans.
Not for Strasburg.
“I think you try not to look in the past and you try not to look in the future,”…