LOS ANGELES -- Stephen Strasburg first felt a pinch in his back while working out this past Saturday, and although he initially thought little of it then, his back continued to lock up leading up to his scheduled start Monday night. When he arrived at Dodger Stadium, he immediately went to the trainers room for treatment, hopeful he could still take the mound by game time.
But when his back did not improve, the Nationals scratched Strasburg from his start prior to a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers with an upper back strain.
It spoiled a marquee pitching matchup between Strasburg and Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw that would have been the first starting pitching matchup of two starters with double-digit wins this early in the season in 100 years, according to STATS, LLC.
The Nationals did not want to risk Strasburg's health while he is off to such a successful start to this season. In 14 starts this year, he is 10-0 with a 2.90 ERA.
Strasburg tried to pitch through injury issues at the start of last season, but his performance suffered and the injuries only got worse until he landed on the disabled list.
"I think it's something that's manageable," Strasburg said. "It's gotten better -- that's the big thing. It's just still there. I just don't want to make the same mistake I made last year and have it become a long-term thing. I just want to nip it in the bud, and get ready for the next one."
Strasburg was hopeful he could make his next scheduled start, which would come Sunday afternoon against the Brewers. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit pitched admirably in his place, allowing three runs over six innings. It was the first time this season the Nationals used someone not in their Opening Day rotation to start a game.
"We don't think it's serious," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We hope that he makes his next start."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.