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There will be a Game 5 between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs. The baseball gods had mercy on the October-starved Nationals when the heavens opened on Tuesday and poured rain all over Wrigley Field. That allowed the Nats a break. A break in being able to trot out one of its two aces Stephen Strasburg.
Unfortunately, the break was momentarily snatched away when it was revealed Strasburg had fallen ill while in Chicago and reportedly declined to pitch the all-or-nothing elimination game in Game 4. But by Wednesday morning the tide of the story and fate of the Nationals shifted.
Whether he was pressured, felt guilty or felt motivated by being called a “diva” and “soft” by various baseball personalities, Strasburg woke up Wednesday and walked up to Nationals’ pitching coach Mike Maddux and demanded the ball. Given the opportunity, Strasburg did not disappoint.
Strasburg, referencing pitching coach Mike Maddux: "I called Mad Dog in the morning and said, 'Just give me the ball.' That's what he did."
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 12, 2017
Strasburg not only held the fort, he dominated the defending World Series champions for seven magnificent innings. He blanked the Cubs striking out 12. He mowed down the reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant with a strikeout in each of three times they faced off. Strasburg also struck out Game 3’s hero Anthony Rizzo twice.
It was a career-defining moment. Previously, Strasburg’s resume had been marred by Tommy John surgery and a long list of stints on the disabled list. The label of “soft” stuck whether it was fair or not — unlucky possibly if you don’t like the soft tag. Nonetheless, Strasburg hadn’t lived completely up to the expectations he entered the league with back in 2010.
He debunked a lot of negatives in Game 4 in Chicago. He took the mound and pitched a Jordanesque game through 106 pitches. In fact, it was fitting all the events that transpired leading up to his marvelous performance being he was in Chicago, the home of Michael Jordan. After stifling the Cubs, many quickly spit out the term “Flu Game” with Yahoo Sports taking the narrative one step further.
Stephen Strasburg is officially done and his #flugame went something like this: 7 shutout innings, 12 strikeouts, just 3 hits.
— Big League Stew (@bigleaguestew) October 11, 2017
Strasburg said he had nothing to prove by going out on the mound Wednesday. He just felt better for what he described as a virus.
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) October 12, 2017
Coincidentally, he proved a lot to the same media, fans, and even his teammates by taking the mound and then dominating. His masterful performance gave his team another chance. A chance that almost didn’t happen.
It was a whirlwind 24 hours for him. What seemed destined to stamp a legacy of unfulfilled potential, Strasburg battled through being ill and his demons and may have forever altered his legend for the positive.