As they prepare for the postseason, the Washington Nationals hope to get Stephen Strasburg back if they advance past the NLDS.
The Washington Nationals are not planning on Stephen Strasburg pitching in the upcoming National League Divisional Series. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports says they hope to have him available for the NL Championship Series, if they do advance.
As of now, the Nationals are expected to go with Max Scherzer in Game 1, likely against Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Game 2 would see Tanner Roark. Gio Gonzalez potentially in Game 3 and Joe Ross in Game 4 if needed.
Ross made his first start last Sunday against the Atlanta Braves since coming off the 60-day disabled list. In case the series goes the full five games, Scherzer will get the honors.
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If Ross can make his start, A.J. Cole would be sent to the bullpen for long relief duties. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are the other multiple inning options. Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley will set up Mark Melancon to close the door.
With the Scherzer/Kershaw matchups being even, the pressure falls to Roark to give the Nationals an advantage before the series moves out to California for Games 3 and 4. Roark has held opponents scoreless nine times this year into the seventh inning. The other pitcher, aside from Scherzer, to log over 200 innings this year, the 29-year-old Roark is ready for the job.
Gonzalez, ever the enigma, could get the benefit of a twilight game in Los Angeles, depending on the television whims of FOX and Major League Baseball. Along with all but one game, FS1 will broadcast the series with MLB Network taking the other.
As far as Ross goes in Game 4, he felt fine after his start in Atlanta feeling he could have pitched a fourth inning if needed. A victim of bloopers and bleeders, he took the loss but showed good velocity and movement on his pitches. The key is getting him stretched out to throw 90-100 comfortable pitches in a game they either can win to advance or need to stay alive.
The longer Gonzalez can be effective in Game 3, the less pressure there will be on the bullpen to back up Ross in Game 4. If the Washington Nationals can get five innings each from both, they will be in great shape to advance.
Gonzalez has not pitched at Dodger Stadium this year, but did beat Los Angeles at home in July. Ross pitched 6.1 innings of no-decision ball June 22. Although the Nats lost that game, Ross allowed two runs and seven hits while walking one and fanning five. He pitched well.
Scherzer has yet to pitch for Washington in the playoffs. Roark worked out of the pen twice two years ago in their series loss to the San Francisco Giants.
You never want to say the Nationals will not miss Strasburg but, if Ross can go without restrictions, they still feature a well-heeled rotation for the biggest games of the year.