WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 05: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on August 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Like a pesky rain cloud that won't come to pass, the innings limit reportedly attached to Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg continues to loom large over the ace's head.
After a dominant six-inning performance Sunday in a 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins -- his 12th victory of the season -- Strasburg has pitched 127.1 innings and with several reports suggesting that he will only pitch up to anywhere between 160-180 this season, his time on the mound is seemingly running out.
Yet, is it possible that Strasburg could extend his season in the batter's box?
Probably not, but that doesn't mean that the Nationals haven't joked about Strasburg's live bat.
"Somebody said, 'When we shut him down, can we keep his bat? Can we use him as a pinch hitter?' Highly unlikely," manager Davey Johnson said.
Strasburg helped his own cause again Sunday, driving in two runs with a single in the second inning and raising his average to .343. That number leads all National League pitchers with at least 10 at-bats, as do his seven RBIs, .410 on-base percentage and .543 slugging percentage. He also hit his first-career home run earlier this season.
"I can't explain [the success at the plate]," Strasburg said. "Just trying to not strike out every time, just trying to do my job. It's big when you have a pitcher in the lineup that can handle the bat."
"I think they are starting to pitch me more like a hitter, which is kind of cool, because they respect me a little more at the plate."
When briefed on Johnson's joke regarding using him as a pinch hitter, Strasburg chuckled, but made sure that nobody got too far ahead of themselves.
"I don't think we're that far along," he said. "I'm focusing on pitching right now. If I can get a bunt down or slap one into the hole, it's a big plus for me."
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