By Bryan Frantz

WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg missed his highly anticipated showdown with Clayton Kershaw last week due to a mysterious upper back strain.

The injury was not disclosed until shortly before the game began, and the Nationals’ winningest pitcher this season was scratched just 80 minutes before the first pitch. Late scratches happen all the time in baseball, but it was a disconcerting moment for Nationals fans that are used to seeing Strasburg (10-0) miss time with a minor injury here or a semi-serious injury there.

On Friday, Strasburg disclosed to reporters what happened before the start against the man generally considered the best pitcher alive.

Ouch. Popping two ribs out of place sounds like it would hurt, a lot. A “weight room mishap,” while vague, sounds dangerous. In all likelihood, it was something relatively minor, like Strasburg twisted the wrong way when lifting weights, something that happens to most people who exercise frequently once in awhile.

If the injury is in fact minor and doesn’t lead to further complications down the road, Nationals fans can release a considerable sigh of relief for the $175 million man.

But until Strasburg gets through his next start unscathed, Washington is going to be holding its collective breath. The fact that the injury is localized to the back certainly doesn’t qualm any nerves, as back injuries have a nagging propensity to linger. And Strasburg has a history of sustaining injuries that are originally deemed “minor” or “inconsequential,” then they end up requiring a stint on the disabled list.

Monday, then Tuesday, should bring more clarification on the Nationals star. Until then, he should probably be a tad more careful in the weight room.

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