His overall numbers — 3.13 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, nearly one strikeout per inning — are by no means cause for alarm. Those are the numbers you'd expect from a good major-league pitcher.

With Stephen Strasburg, though, the bar has been set exceedingly high, in part due to the hype surrounding the young right-hander but mostly by his own doing over parts of the last four seasons with the Nationals. So when Strasburg fails to live up to the beyond-lofty standards everyone has for him, it's only natural to wonder if he's 100 percent healthy.

After Monday night's 3-2 loss to the Braves, manager Davey Johnson suggested his ace isn't, that he was dealing with forearm tightness that required a postgame examination, that it's too early to know whether he'll make his next scheduled start or not. Strasburg refused even to acknowledge any physical issue and insisted he's "not missing my next start, I'll tell you right now."

This much is certain: Through his first six starts of 2013, Strasburg may be pitching well enough to give his team a chance, but he's not pitching well enough to be considered the ace of a World Series contender. And whatever is going on with his right arm at the moment is of more concern to his manager than the fact his team just lost its eighth straight game to its chief division rival.

"Yeah, that overrides everything," Johnson said. "Hopefully he's going to be all right. We'll just have to wait and see."

Strasburg labored throughout this start, from the moment he walked Atlanta leadoff man Jordan Schafer until he finally started to click in his sixth and final inning, striking out the side with a flourish. In between, he frequently shook his arm between pitches, pawed at the Turner Field mound and glared at anyone he encountered (umpires, teammates, pitching coach Steve McCatty).

Velocity-wise, Strasburg was fine. His final two pitches of the night registered 97 mph, producing his eighth strikeout in six innings. But his manager was concerned enough not to let him stay in what was then a 2-2 game, asking McCatty to talk to his young starter "because he doesn't look right to me."