There was a time when it looked like Stephen Strasburg was going to win 20-games this season, but in order for pitchers to be credited with a win, it is very dependent on run support, their bullpen and other factors. With only 10 games left in the regular season, it seems like Stras will not get a chance to get to 20 wins, however he still leads the NL now with 17 wins. If this ace can win tonight, it would have a more impactful effect on his team than any personal record could because Strasburg’s team is fighting for a spot in the postseason. If the Washington Nationals can earn a win tonight, they take another day off of the calendar and get closer to clinching a postseason berth via the Wild Card. The NL East division crown was clinched last night by the Braves, and the only way the Nats can get to the postseason now is via the Wild Card.
Winning the Wild Card is a one-game opportunity for the winner to move forward into the NLDS while the other team goes home for a long autumnal recess. That Wild Card is the best chance this season has to offer to the Nationals right now, and their Magic number is at seven to clinch a coveted spot. Home field advantage would be ideal but at this point, just clinch and start to rest players like Anthony Rendon who is suddenly struggling (1-13), and Juan Soto who is hitless in his previous two games, and Adam Eaton is batting .165 since August 25th (9-55). Since September 4th, Ryan Zimmerman is batting .167 (5-30), and he has moved to more of a support role as the team is 1-7 in Zim’s last eight starts. Gerardo Parra has not started a game since September 4th and his slump dates back to August 13th in which time he is batting .063 (3-48) which seems impossible.
Something changed with this team on Labor Day. This team is 7-10 since that point on September 2nd when the callups came and the lineup changed — unless you believe it is all a coincidence. Maybe it is. Maybe that 19-7 record in August was another team, but whatever magic this team had on May 24th to September 1st to be the best team in baseball — they have to dig deep and find that team again. They must.
Some managers will rest a struggling player and some managers will keep playing that player to work their way out of that slump. Manager Dave Martinez chooses the latter. You usually do not win a game when your 2-3-4 hitters go hitless like last night, but the production from Trea Turner, Howie Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Victor Robles was enough to produce 6 runs to win that game. The prophetic words of Max Scherzer should be digested deep by each player.
“It takes a team effort [to win],” Max Scherzer said. “Everybody has to have a hand in it. It can’t be [just] one guy. It can’t be two guys. It’s got to be all 25 guys.”
One of Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon‘s best quotes spoke to what a struggling player could do to help their team when they are not hitting. Struggling players can help in other ways like a big defensive play or smart baserunning or just being that great teammate. Part of what a great manager can do is put a player in their best situation to succeed for their team. It is a tough balancing act and now with just ten games remaining in the regular season, is there enough time to get some of these struggling players righted? It is a question that must be pondered. There is also the issue of determining if a player is hurting or is hurt. At what point do you sit Adam Eaton or give Anthony Rendon an extra day-off? When do you ease up on Stephen Strasburg and when do you push him harder?
Some of these questions could get answered shortly. Tonight the Nats face the right-handed Jordan Yamamoto who the Nats have not faced this year. The Nats need everyone contributing tonight.
Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins
Stadium: Marlins Park, Miami, Florida
1st Pitch: 6:10 pm EDT
TV: MASN2, FOX Sports Florida, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):
- Trea Turner – SS
- Adam Eaton – RF
- Anthony Rendon – 3B
- Juan Soto – LF
- Asdrúbal Cabrera – 2B
- Ryan Zimmerman – 1B
- Victor Robles – CF
- Yan Gomes – C
- Stephen Strasburg – RHP