When Stephen Strasburg struck out Miguel Olivo and Justin Turner in succession to end the top of the seventh inning yesterday afternoon, the crowd of 34,756 at Nationals Park rose and saluted the right-hander as he retreated to the dugout.
Everyone in attendance had every reason to believe Strasburg's afternoon was complete. He had thrown 106 pitches. He had battled back after a ragged first inning to retire 19-of-22 batters faced. And the Nationals held a 3-2 lead over the Dodgers, with a fresh bullpen ready to close this one out.
Inside the home dugout, though, Matt Williams had other ideas. He didn't have Tyler Clippard warming in the bullpen. He didn't go over to shake Strasburg's hand. Instead, he let the 25-year-old take the mound once again for the top of the eighth.
As the rookie manager explained afterward: "He's our horse."