It wasn’t the happiest 30th birthday for Stephen Strasburg.
Not only did the Washington Nationals’ longtime ace lose in his return from the disabled list Friday against the Atlanta Braves, but he got into a verbal altercation with All-Star teammate Max Scherzer in the dugout after getting pulled from the game in the fifth inning.
It was not exactly what the Nationals were hoping for coming out of All-Star week after limping to the break having lost 22 of 33 games, and falling to .500 in third place in the National League East behind Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Hoping for a boost from the return of their three-time All-Star right-hander, who was pitching for the first time since June 8 after an extended DL stint due to right shoulder inflammation, Strasburg didn’t make it past the fifth inning. Strasburg allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, and was pulled after giving up the fourth Braves hit in a three-run fifth inning that pushed Atlanta’s lead to 6-2.
As he entered the dugout, Scherzer patted Strasburg on the shoulder as he passed by. Cameras caught Strasburg appear to say something back to Scherzer, igniting a visible and animated exchange, although nothing physical was involved. Both pitchers quickly left the dugout for the clubhouse tunnel.
After the game, manager Dave Martinez held a private meeting with his pitching staff.
When asked by media members about the incident, Strasburg replied, “Part of family. You have to be in the family (to know).” Scherzer was not available for comment after the game.
With the defeat, Strasburg is 6-7 in 14 starts this season, with 101 strikeouts in 85.1 innings. He has not finished a season with a losing record since 2013, when he was 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA. The nine-year veteran currently owns a 3.90 ERA, which is higher than any single-season ERA in his career.