Washington Nationals: Why Stephen Strasburg needs to pitch in Game 4


With the Washington Nationals on the brink of elimination, they need Stephen Strasburg to pitch in Game 4 tonight against the Cubs on short rest

Tonight, the Washington Nationals will look to avoid their fourth NLDS loss in the last six years at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. Tanner Roark will get the start and deserves to get a chance to pitch for his strong second half. The question will be how long will the leash be for the right-hander.

Roark has the big game experience with pitching in last year’s postseason and winning that semifinal game against Japan in the World Baseball Classic. But, if the Cubs get up a couple of runs with the way offense has been lacking for both teams, then Dusty Baker might have to go to one of his aces in the deck.

No, we are not talking about Max Scherzer, who had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning last night. That ace is Stephen Strasburg, who had a no-no going into the sixth of Game 1. On Sunday, pitching coach Mike Maddux dismissed the idea of Strasburg starting Game 4 on short rest:

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In the end, that is the right call. If Strasburg hasn’t started on three days rest, then that pattern shouldn’t change because you want him in the best situation possible to be dominant. With that being said, he needs to play a factor in the bullpen tonight.

Back in 2014, Matt Williams had Strasburg available in the bullpen on short rest in Game 4 against the Giants, but he was never used and the Nats ended up losing that game and the series.

With Gio Gonzalez being available on full rest in a possible Game 5 and Scherzer maybe being able to pitch out of the bullpen in that game, Strasburg makes the most sense to pitch out of the bullpen in an elimination game, especially one that is so important to this franchise.

Over his last three starts against the Cubs, Strasburg has allowed a total of three earned runs and has 31 strikeouts, including the ten that he had in Game 1. Clearly, the Cubs have had a tough time figuring out his fastball and changeup, which would be a good change of pace from what Roark throws.

Yesterday, in Game 4 between the Astros and Red Sox, both Chris Sale and Justin Verlander threw out of the bullpen for the first time in their respective postseason careers. There is precedent to use Strasburg in a game that counts for at least two innings if needed.

While I do think Roark can keep this game close and put together a competitive outing, the Washington Nationals need to be prepared to map out the game with Roark-Strasburg-Brandon KintzlerRyan MadsonSean Doolittle. Even if Doolittle has to go multiple innings, Baker has to let his closer get big outs.

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It will be interesting to see how Baker decides to use his pitchers if Roark does struggle. But, a good relief outing in Game 4 would further enhance the dominance of Strasburg and had another chapter to his D.C. playoff legacy.