There is no bigger story in baseball at the moment than the fact that the Washington Nationals despite being right in the thick of a playoff chase, still intend on shutting down ace Stephen Strasburg.
On Wednesday, though, the 24-year-old righty will be on the hill when the Nationals complete a three-game set with the San Francisco Giants.
Strasburg won his second straight start on Friday in Arizona, as he held the Diamondbacks to a run and one hit in six innings. He also walked four batters, but struck out six and is tied for the NL lead in that category with 166.
He is 13-5 on the year with a 2.90 ERA and has thrown 133 1/3 innings, 30 or so shy of the limit imposed by the Nationals. Some have speculated that it's a 160-inning limit, while others have stated that he could go to 180.
Either way, it looks as if Strasburg won't be pitching down the stretch, as the team tries for their first and only playoff berth since 1981.
"I get their side," Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche recently said. "But our side is, the playoffs aren't guaranteed. You don't want to shut your best guy down - or one of your best guys, because we've got a bunch of them - if you're never going to go back there. If I knew for the next two or three years we're going to go back, then it���s probably an easy decision."
Strasburg beat the Giants in his only other appearance against them.
San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum knows what it's like to be a phenom, but the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner has been anything but this season, going 6-12 with a 5.35 ERA.
Lincecum had a modest two-game winning streak stopped on Friday against Colorado, as he allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings.
Despite the loss it was his fifth quality start in his past six, a stretch that has seem him pitch to a 2.72 ERA.
"He wasn't quite as sharp as he has been since the All-Star break, but he settled down and pitched great." San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "I was pleased with the way he kept us in the game. Sure, they got a couple big two-out hits, and it's important for him to get ahead like all pitchers, and tonight he wasn't quite hitting his spots as well as he has been. But still, you look at the result, it's pretty good. You take that quality start, seven innings."
Lincecum was hammered by the Nationals for seven earned runs in only 3 1/3 innings back on July 3 and is just 1-3 lifetime against them with a 5.36 ERA in seven starts.
Madison Bumgarner continued his home mastery on Tuesday, as he hurled the second complete game of his career in San Francisco's 6-1 win. Brandon Belt tallied three hits and had his seventh career three-RBI game for the Giants, who have won eight of their last 12 contests and remain tied with Los Angeles atop the NL West standings.
Bumgarner (13-7) surrendered a run on five hits and one walk while fanning six. He is 8-1 in 11 assignments at AT&T Park this year and lowered his ERA to an NL-leading 1.87 at home.
"It started with him with the job he did," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We needed a well-pitched game and he's as good as anybody."
The 23-year-old sidewinding left-hander, who was 1-8 with a 5.02 ERA over his first 16 starts in San Francisco, has gone 16-2 with a minuscule 1.84 ERA over his last 21 home tilts.
"He stays out of the middle of the plate, that's what he does really good," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Jordan Zimmermann (9-7), 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA over his last five road starts coming in, allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks over 5 2/3 frames for Washington, which has dropped two of three on the heels of an eight-game winning streak.
Washington swept the Giants earlier in the season in D.C.