Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/2/12

Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez faced a different battle last weekend.

They have been arguably the top 1-2 combination of starting pitchers in the major leagues this season, and each made the National League All-Star team. But both had to pitch through the extreme heat in Atlanta in their starts on Saturday and Sunday, something that plagued the Eastern seaboard and made life difficult for pitchers.

That heat is what made Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson be very careful with his two starters, pulling both out earlier than normal. He really had no choice -- the Nationals' three games in Atlanta featured gametime temperatures of 104 degrees on Saturday and 101 on both Friday and Sunday.

"It was awfully hot out there," Johnson said after Sunday's game. "It's 120 out there. It was really hot."

The hot weather forced Johnson to make a tough decision when Strasburg started on Saturday, a game that began late in the afternoon in the sun and with that heat and humidity.

Strasburg said he did everything possible to prepare for starting and going long in the heat. But he got a hit and ran the bases, which probably didn't help matters, and found lots of trouble while on the mound.

The right-hander's face clearly became more pale the more he pitched, and when he became dizzy, Johnson was alarmed. Strasburg threw 67 pitches, struck out four and walked four but clearly labored.

That's why Johnson pulled Strasburg after just those three innings, not wanting to run into any trouble. Johnson said it wasn't a tough choice -- he was more concerned about the pitcher's overall health.

Strasburg wound up suffering from dehydration, and it was later reported that he needed three saline IVs to recover after the 7-5 loss, which dropped his record to 9-3.

"It's tough out there," Strasburg said after the game. "I expected a lot more out of myself. I thought I did everything I could to be ready for it. You've just got to learn from it."

Gonzalez did a little better. He made it through five innings Sunday before Johnson pulled him during the top of the sixth. Gonzalez got the win to improve to 11-3.

Johnson said he was being careful with Gonzalez because of the heat.

"He berated himself one time for taking a walk and getting on base," Johnson said of Gonzalez. "An early exit, that's something that's hard for (Strasburg and Gonzalez) to sleep on."

Gonzalez said he tried a number of different tricks to keep his body cool during the extreme heat at Turner Field. He drank water after each inning, poured it over his head, anything possible to feel better, but admitted later it might have been too tough of a fight.

"(The heat) wore me down a little bit," he said.

This could be an issue Johnson will deal with again this week -- temperatures in the Washington area are expected to be in the low to mid-90s all week. The Nationals have a three-game home series with the Giants starting on Tuesday before finishing the first half of the season with a three-game home series with the Rockies beginning on Friday.

If the temperature and humidity remain high, Johnson probably will be careful with his starters once more. The Washington bullpen has been strong all season and figures to be needed often no matter how well the starters pitch.

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