CINCINNATI -- It's early in the season, relatively speaking, but it's never too early to talk about Stephen Strasburg's innings limit. The Nationals announced in April that Strasburg, who returned from Tommy John surgery, would be limited to 160 innings in 2012.
Manager Davey Johnson said before Saturday's game that the limit is still in place, and that Strasburg will not be skipping starts.
Strasburg has been dominant through seven outings this year; he is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP, and has 51 strikeouts in 44 innings. He fanned 13 in his last start, a 4-2 win at Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Overall, the Nationals' pitching staff has been statistically the best in baseball -- and it's not even close. Washington's team ERA of 2.65 entering play Saturday was more than a half run lower than that of the St. Louis Cardinals, who were second in the Majors at 3.19.
"Numbers don't lie," Johnson said. "Right now, we've been stingier than anybody else. Our starters have all consistently had quality starts. The bullpen is probably a bit underrated, even with losing [Drew] Storen and [Brad] Lidge. We've lost some key players, but the rest of them have done a great job."
Harper in lineup day after hitting self with bat
CINCINNATI -- Remain calm, Nationals fans.
Bryce Harper is OK.
The 19-year-old rookie needed 10 stitches above his left eye following Friday night's 7-3 win over the Reds. Harper, who went 0-for-5, swung his bat against a wall in the Washington dugout following a seventh-inning groundout to Reds pitcher Jose Arredondo. The bat boomeranged back to Harper, gashing his forehead in the process.
Harper, however, started in right field and batted fifth against Cincinnati righty Mat Latos on Saturday night.
"I feel good," Harper said. "No problems, no headache, nothing like that. I'm ready to go. Just another day."
Manager Davey Johnson said he got a text from Harper on Friday night saying he was OK.
"I told him to take that anger out on opposing pitchers," Johnson said. "Other guys have [swung bats against walls]. He probably has less experience hitting walls than most. But he's lucky it wasn't a lot worse."
Harper entered Saturday batting .233 with six doubles, six walks and one steal in 12 games this season.
"[Friday] night was the first time all year I thought he was over-aggressive," Johnson said, referring to Harper's 0-for-5 performance at the plate. "He's been very patient."
Nationals being cautious on bases so far
CINCINNATI -- As dominant as Washington's pitching was through 32 games this season, the hitting was decidedly less so. Entering play on Saturday, the Nationals ranked 11th in the National League in batting average (.240), ninth in home runs (25) and 13th in runs scored (113).
The basepaths haven't been much better. The Nationals ranked 14th in the NL with 14 stolen bases, and 15th with 23 stolen-base attempts. No Washington player ranked in the top 30 in the league in steals, while the team's leading basestealer, with three, is Jayson Werth, who is on the DL with a broken left wrist.
"We haven't had a lot of guys on," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "Our offense hasn't been doing things it's capable of, and you don't want to give up outs, so you don't try to steal as much. That's my philosophy."
Miami Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio entered Saturday with 17 steals -- three more than the entire Washington roster.
Tony Meale is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.