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Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg argue in dugout as Nationals season hits new low

The Washington Nationals were probably hoping Friday’s second-half opener would serve as a new beginning in the midst of a disappointing season. Instead, an intense dugout confrontation between pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg could threaten to unravel their season even further.

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Moments after Strasburg was removed from his start against the Atlanta Braves, cameras caught the beginning of an argument between Washington’s top two hurlers. The video shows Scherzer pat Strasburg on the shoulder, before turning his head in response to something Strasburg apparently said.

An animated exchange followed. Strasburg then attempted to head for the clubhouse, but Scherzer followed close behind.

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer (left) chats with teammate Stephen Strasburg in the dugout during a game in 2017. (AP)

This can’t be happening again is something we’re sure Nationals were thinking upon seeing the incident. It wasn’t even three years ago that Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon were involved in a heated exchange at the opposite end of Washington’s home dugout. That altercation from Sept. 27, 2015, turned physical when Papelbon wrapped his hands around Harper’s throat. As a result, Papelbon was suspended for the rest of the season.

Fortunately, the Scherzer-Strasburg showdown didn’t turn physical. It did, however, place another dark cloud over a team that could be on the brink of falling apart.

Scherzer has attempted to take a leadership role in hopes of preventing a complete collapse. On July 4, he was very during a players-only meeting. The Nationals responded by overcoming a nine-run deficit to beat the Miami Marlins the following day. Nonetheless, they still limped into the break with a .500 record.

Strasburg was undoubtedly in a foul mood after struggling in his return from the disabled list. In 4.2 innings, he allowed six runs (all earned) on eight hits and two walks. The 30-year-old right-hander had not pitched since June 8 due to shoulder inflammation.

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