Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains. And sometimes, that rain helps you change your legacy. That’s what happened to Stephen Strasburg over the course of a whirlwind 36 hours in Chicago.
On Tuesday, the Washington Nationals righthander reportedly “declined” his Game 4 start due to illness. An illness either caused by the weather, an air conditioning unit, or mold. In the playoffs, top-end pitchers don’t usually turn down opportunities to take the ball. But Strasburg was about to do just that. Dusty Baker was about to turn to Tanner Roark.
Then it rained. And rained. It rained enough to postpone the game 24 hours. That rain may have saved the Nationals season. It may also have saved Strasburg from an unshakable stigma.
The 29-year-old woke up this morning feeling better. He woke up healthy enough to climb the mound in an elimination game in hostile territory. We may never know how much he was guilted into taking the hill. We may never know how much of his decision was about saving face.
Whatever the motivation, Strasburg delivered. He worked seven innings of scoreless, three-hit ball while racking up 12 strikeouts. In the biggest game of his life, Strasburg showed what all the hype has been about all these years. He turned jokes at his expense into a deadly serious display of intestinal fortitude.
Transcendent postseason performances change everything. And though Strasburg has been a success in his career (84-45, 3.07 ERA, 1.081 WHIP, four All-Star Games), he’s gotten the reputation as a guy who can’t stay healthy. Then there was the infamous 2012 shutdown. Not his fault, of course, but still a painful chapter of what could have been.
If the sun had shined on Tuesday, perhaps Roark pitches well and forces a Game 5. If he doesn’t, Strasburg is perhaps forever known as a player who couldn’t answer the bell. The rain afforded him the opportunity to change things.
Make no mistake. Strasburg made the best of his second chance. The antibiotics not only starved his symptoms, they allowed him to breathe easier. Today, tomorrow, and for the forseeable future.
The Nationals made lose tomorrow night. They may go on to bigger and better things. No matter what happens, though, Strasburg changed his legacy. Already.