UPDATE: The Nationals say Strasburg's injury is a right oblique strain, according to the Washington Post. He will fly back to Washington, D.C. to have it checked out. Strasburg described it as "just a little tight back there" and that he had been battling with it "for a little bit the last few starts."
Despite losing Strasburg so early in the game, the Nats went on to beat the Braves 3-2 to get within 4.5 games of Atlanta for the NL East lead.
Stephen Strasburg didn't come out to pitch the third inning of Friday night's game between the Nationals and Braves in Atlanta after exhibiting a sudden velocity drop and apparent discomfort in the bottom of the second inning. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reports Strasburg left the game with a "muscular issue in his back," though the Nationals have yet to issue an official statement.
After giving up a leadoff homer to Freddie Freeman in the bottom of the second inning, Strasburg's fastball dropped from 98 mph in his strikeout of Even Gattis to 93-95 mph to the next two hitters, both of whom he retired. During those at-bats, Strasburg was seen rolling his shoulders and grimacing on the mound.
If Kilgore's source is correct, this is not an arm injury. But it doesn't mean it won't require a disabled list stay, which would still be a painful blow to a Nationals rotation that just lost Ross Detwiler to an oblique strain.
Strasburg previously raised red flags after experiencing some forearm tightness in his April 29 start, which also took place in Atlanta. He came back on regular rest after that and has been on a roll of late, allowing just three earned runs in 23 innings over his last three starts (1.17 ERA). If this injury is indeed in his back, it would not be related to that previous one. Given Strasburg's past Tommy John surgery and the way the Nationals handled him with kid gloves last year, however, any time he requires medical attention for an upper-body injury there is going to be much consternation. Stay tuned . . .