Today, the Washington Nationals announced that their ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg has been officially shut down for the rest of the season. This comes as a mild surprise, as Strasburg (15-6) was supposed to make one more start, against the Mets on September 12th, before being shut down–as part of their pre-season, precautionary plan to limit the righty’s innings in his first season following Tommy John surgery.

However, following Strasburg’s rough outing yesterday, in which he gave up 5 runs in 3 innings in a 9-7 loss at home to the Miami Marlins, Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced he was done, stating, “I don’t know how anybody can be totally mentally concentrating on the job at hand with the media hype to this thing and I think we’d be risking more by sending him out.”

So how much effect could this have on the Cardinals?

Possibly quite a bit.

If the playoffs started today, the Cardinals would face Atlanta in a one-game playoff of the two NL Wild Card teams. If the Cardinals won that game, they would go on to face Washington in the NLDS, because the Nationals currently own the best record in the National League (and baseball).

So if the standings do hold steady, this would be a huge break for the Cards. Without Strasburg, the Nationals are much less powerful, despite having other strong starters in Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.

Obviously, a lot can change in the standings in three weeks, but the Nationals’ brass’s controversial decision just might be a huge boon for a deep Cardinals’ playoff run.