Before last night’s win against the San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals’ manager Matt Williams made some interesting changes to the rotation. All season long, you have Williams use the words focus on tomorrow during his postgame press conferences with the media. Well, with less than 40 games to go, the Nats aligned their rotation by setting up their top three starters for a crucial series beginning on Labor Day against the New York Mets:
The big change made was that Gio Gonzalez was slotted into tonight’s game, Joe Ross will pitch tomorrow, and Max Scherzer gets a couple days rest. Scherzer will pitch Friday night when the Nats begin a series against the Marlins. The extra rest should hopefully help the Nats’ ace as he has gone 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA in his last seven starts.
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While it is a move that shows urgency and concern as the season winds down, this is a move that should have happened last month. In both series against the Mets, New York lined up Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard to be the only starters that faced Washington. Plus, Mets’ manager Terry Collins said this afternoon that two of their big three are already lined up for the September 7-9 series:
In particular, look back to the first series against New York in July when Williams had a chance to line up Scherzer to face the Mets at Nats Park and give him extra rest. Instead, Scherzer faced the Dodgers and Zack Greinke in the game prior to the Mets’ series.
While the Nats would win two out of three games in that series, this rotation change signals how important that Labor Day series is. Coming into tonight, the Nationals are 5.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East. New York has won 16 of their last 22 games, are 20-14 since the All-Star Break, and have won seven of the 13 games against Washington this season. Plus, even by pitching Scherzer in that series, keep in mind that the Mets are 2-0 against him this season, even though Scherzer has a 0.61 ERA in those games.
The Mets were the ones who made the statement last month and now the Nationals will be attempting to make their own statement against New York. The question is now, with everybody back in the lineup, is it too late for the urgency or will the Nats’ talent have one more run in them to come back from this deficit. Only time will tell.
Williams has received criticism from not pitching Scherzer in July against New York and not using his top two relievers, Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen, in any of the three games at Citi Field last month (July 31-August 2). At least, yesterday, Williams corrected one of those mistakes. Plus, it is refreshing to see this team show some urgency down the stretch. Before that Mets series, though, they need to win as many games as they can to make those three games more meaningful.