Stephen Strasburg had the worst start of his career last night

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Stephen Strasburg entered last night’s action having allowed seven earned runs combined over his last four starts. So of course he gave up a career-high seven earned runs over just two innings in an 8-3 loss to the last-place Marlins. Baseball, man.

After being handed a quick 3-0 lead, Strasburg really struggled with his control in the bottom of the first inning, as he walked the bases loaded. Marcell Ozuna then made him pay by clearing the bases with a triple. Derek Dietrich followed with an RBI single and was eventually driven in on an RBI single by opposing pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. The five runs were the most Strasburg has ever allowed in one inning. Giancarlo Stanton connected for a two-run homer in the second inning before Strasburg was replaced by Ross Ohlendorf to begin the third. It was his shortest outing since he was pulled from a start on May 31 after two innings due to a lat strain.

Strasburg gave up five hits and four walks while throwing just 33 out of 66 pitches for strikes. The important part is that he’s healthy, but the 24-year-old right-hander told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he was having mechanical issues.

“It’s frustrating. I threw ball one, ball two. The batters put a good swing [on the ball],” Strasburg said. “I was too much open to home plate to start. That messed everything up from there. It caused me to fly open even more.”

Strasburg will go into the All-Star break at 5-7 to go along with a 2.99 ERA and 109/37 K/BB ratio in 108 1/3 innings over 18 starts. The ERA still looks mighty good, but from a lack of run support to the lat issue, it’s been a frustrating first half. The same can be said for the Nationals, actually.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.