Washington Nationals: Strasburg’s Playoff Uncertainty Begs Questions
After Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg said he was unsure of his playoff status, the team needs to hatch a strategy if he cannot pitch the playoffs.
With Stephen Strasburg uncertain of when, or if, he is returning to the Washington Nationals this season, a large potential hole opens for the playoffs.
Strasburg can recover the rest of the regular season. Washington’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot sits at 11 Monday morning and any win this week against the New York Mets knocks two off it. They are in a position where only a collapse now ends the season.
Instead, we are looking at Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series either against the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants. Unless something catastrophic happens, you know Max Scherzer will pitch Game 1, and the dreaded if needed Game 5. What happens in Game 2 holds the balance for the rest of the series.
More from District on Deck
- Latest DraftKings Sportsbook Promo Code in Maryland: Bet $5, Win $200 Guaranteed
- Nationals Claim Jeter Downs Off Waivers
- Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- 3 Free Agents the Nationals Should Gamble On
If Strasburg can go, after his platelet-rich plasma injection, various opinions and rest, then everything is on schedule. Then again, before Wednesday night’s aborted start against the Atlanta Braves, the same conventional wisdom applied. There is nothing Dusty Baker can do if the same scenario happens again during the playoffs. He wings it the best he can and hopes to have the upper hand.
What happens though if Strasburg is done for the year? Baker cannot plan for the NL Championship Series or the World Series now, but he must inspect his options now for the NLDS.
If this is the case, Tanner Roark moves up to Game 2 and Gio Gonzalez likely takes Game 3. Joe Ross, coming off a long-term injury himself, Lucas Giolito or Mat Latos will get the critical call in Game 4. Baker may gamble on Scherzer on short rest, but if you need a Game 5, who would you pitch.
Although Ross wins the battle on paper, his arm strength limits his pitch count. Depending on the situation, do you risk him only throwing 60-80 pitches in anger? Nothing wrong if you need it to survive, as you are in an all hands-on-deck situation anyway, but closing out a series is different.
Giolito is raw. A 1.759 WHIP and 5.59 ERA in four starts does not spell confidence in what would be the biggest start of his career. He will be on the playoff roster, but that may be too much pressure on the kid.
That leaves you with Latos. A pitcher who wears his raw emotion on his sleeves like a blues singer, he has yet to start with the Washington Nationals after a testy season with the Chicago White Sox. Latos imploded so bad, the ChiSox released him outright.
The best option is for Strasburg to pitch if able. Roark slides to Game 3 and you take your chances with Gonzalez or a short-rested Scherzer in Game 4. If Strasburg scrubs, you have to give the ball to Ross, durability issues and all. He gives you the best chance to win and pitch Scherzer, if needed, on either full rest or Game 1 of the NLCS.
Next: Scherzer Should Lead Cy Young Chase
At a time of year where one game makes or breaks a season, you can’t believe that game came last week.