With 5 games remaining in the regular season including tonight’s game, Dusty Baker just wants his players to get their reps and be ready to attack on October 6th when the Nationals will almost certainly be playing the Chicago Cubs in Nationals Park for the first game of the NLDS.
The starting 8 and the starting rotation (4) is set along with the back of the bullpen (4) and the front of the bench. You can almost pencil in the 8 starting players in Dusty Baker’s mind with Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor, and Matt Wieters because that is what Dusty will write on his line-up card and probably not in that order.
The starting rotation will be Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark and the only question is to who pitches game 3 and game 4.
The bullpen certainly has Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, and Matt Albers. Beyond that we don’t know if Dusty Baker will go for the traditional 8-man bullpen for post-season play or a 7-man bullpen like he had last year. That virtually puts everyone else on the bubble from Oliver Perez to Enny Romero, Sammy Solis, Matt Grace and Joe Blanton. Part of the issue is the Nationals are very left-handed in the bullpen and the Cubs have 3 impact right-handed bats in Javier Baez, Jose Contreras, Kris Bryant along with Addison Russell. Their lefty bats are Anthony Rizzo, Jon Jay, Kyle Schwarber, and Jason Heyward. In addition they have switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ. The Cubs 11th position player will be catcher Alex Avila which leaves two more spots for their bench which will be Albert Almora who was injured yesterday and one more.
The Nationals bench will have Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind and Wilmer Difo. The back-up catcher is mostly used as a player who can pinch-hit and pinch-run in the later innings. Will Dusty go with a 5-man bench or a 6-man bench? The bench certainly needs a good outfield defender who can pinch-hit and has some speed. The name keeps pointing to Victor Robles however he has been schooled lately at the plate. The other choices just are not great with the absence of Brian Goodwin. The other name that keeps popping up on projections is Alejandro De Aza.
Almost certainly the decision should be to carry the 8-man bullpen and the 5-man bench. With that said, there is only 5 more games to make a final impression for those remaining coveted spots.
Tonight’s game will feature Tanner Roark against Phillies rookie right-hander Mark Leiter. The Nats just faced him mid-September. Bryce Harper should be in the starting line-up for the Nationals and play 6 to 8 innings, but don’t be surprised if Bryce plays the full game.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Stadium: Citizens Bank Park
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, CSN – Philadelphia, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® (Internet 869)
Line-ups subject to change (without notice):