Nationals make Sept. 12 the Stephen Strasburg shutdown date

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Despite their placement atop the NL East standings, the Nationals announced after Sunday’s game that Stephen Strasburg will make two more starts and then get shut down for the rest of the season.

Strasburg, who struck out nine over six scoreless innings against the Cardinals on Sunday, will pitch Friday at home versus the Marlins and then on Sept. 12 on the road against the Mets before calling it a season.

The thinking prior to Opening Day was that Strasburg would be shut down after reaching 160 innings, but the Nationals have decided to let him get closer to 170 in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. He’s at 156 1/3 innings after throwing six innings today.

Strasburg currently leads the National League with 195 strikeouts and is 15-6 with a 2.94 ERA. John Lannan is expected to take his spot in the rotation. If the Nationals advance to the playoffs — they lead the Braves in the East by seven games at the moment — they’ll likely go with a top three of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson in some order, with either Ross Detwiler or Lannan in the fourth spot.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.