With yesterday’s rainout, the Nationals were in position to change their starter to Stephen Strasburg if he was healthy. “If” is the operative word here. In the last 18 hours the rumors and innuendo have reached a fever pitch. As of this moment, Tanner Roark is officially starting but our sources said “stand-by” and it looks like Stephen Strasburg will indeed by the starting pitcher. There was this news from Jon Morosi that broke earlier:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 11, 2017
Minutes before that tweet was this from Jon Heyman:
nats still hopeful Strasburg can pitch. will evaluate him at park. had flu symptoms yesterday.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 11, 2017
Then came this tweet from a Cubs beat writer:
Strasburg on Nats' lineup card, Heyward for Schwarber
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) October 11, 2017
Stephen Strasburg looks now to be the Nationals starter and no matter who pitches today for the Washington Nationals, they find themselves behind 2-games-to-1 in the best-of-5 series which means today is an elimination game for the Nationals. If the Cubs win today, the series is over. We are at the point that the Nats were in for the 2014 NLDS where game #4 was an elimination game. It is win or go home as they say. The Nats choose to win, but they must find their offense. Except for the 5-run 8th inning on Saturday, the Nationals have scored a total of 2 runs in this entire series. The Cubs have scored just 8 total runs in this series, but that was good enough for 2 wins on their ledger. The pitching has been fantastic overall for both teams. The strategy however has been lacking at times.
The Nationals are batting .121 as a team, and 0-for-12 in the lead-off. Some of the credit goes to the Cubs for how they have pitched to the Nats and how they have positioned against the Nationals and also for several exceptional defensive plays.
By the way, the Cubs are batting .179 as a team with Anthony Rizzo batting .333 with 5 RBIs. Of his 5 RBIs, 3 of them have come in RISP spots where all 3 times first base was open like it was last night. Dusty Baker was questioned about his strategy to pitch to Rizzo instead of Contreras and Dusty said again that he didn’t want to put another runner on base and Contreras is also a good hitter. Contreras is batting .143 in the series and only has one hit.
Good pitching beats good hitting but two things we learned in this series was in game 1 that errors can be costly and you won’t win a game when you score zero runs. In game 3 we learned that when you have a lead and want to keep the lead you should consider inserting your best defense late in the game.
“Win the game, what else do you want us to do?”, Max Scherzer said.
For the legacy of Dusty Baker, this game is his opportunity to turn his lifetime managerial 0-and-8 record in post-season elimination games to a positive and keep this season moving forward to game 5 which would also be an elimination game.
On the many sides of successes and failures, execution is the key. The manager was not bunting for Scherzer last night in a key spot. The manager was not running the route to Zobrist’s double in the 7th inning. The manager was not swinging the bat against Quintana with Taylor on 2nd base. The manager wasn’t swinging the bat in the 7th inning when Zimmerman was on 2nd base. The manager didn’t throw that elevated pitch to Albert Almora in the 7th inning. The Nationals are 2-for-10 in RISP spots this entire post-season. That is a .200 batting average and not good enough.
While we sometimes want to look at the strategies not employed by the manager, we must sometimes look at the overall situation with the offensive production and defensive execution and look to the players on the field. If the Nationals can win this game 4 it goes a long way to erase the pain of game 3 much like game 2 made you forget about the woeful loss of game 1. That is sports. We want to celebrate the positives.
Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
Stadium: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
1st Pitch: 4:00 pm EDT
TV: TBS, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® XM 183 Sirius 216 (Internet 869)
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 11, 2017