In reaching the 2019 MLB postseason by way of the National League Wild Card Game, the Washington Nationals pushed two of their biggest chips into the middle of the table during a comeback win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Starting Max Scherzer in the Wild Card Game was an easy decision, but the Nationals also relied on Stephen Strasburg out of the bullpen. That left Patrick Corbin in reserve for a potential start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
That wound up coming to fruition, and after the Nationals suffered a loss in the opener, Strasburg was back on the mound for a start. He recorded 10 strikeouts and allowed just one run over six innings.
After Sean Doolittle allowed a home run to Max Muncy in the seventh, the Nationals called on Scherzer to serve as a bridge to Daniel Hudson. Nationals manager Dave Martinez had previously named Scherzer the club’s Game 3 starter — as expected.
But after the right-hander threw 14 pitches and struck out the side, Martinez softened on that stance. “We’ll see,” he said. “I’m going to see how he feels tomorrow. I want to make sure he gets a night. He’s working out right now and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Scherzer’s relief appearance coming two days before a scheduled start is somewhat unorthodox but also a decision that was mapped out. “Today was his bullpen day. We held him back and he said he was good to go,” Martinez explained.
“I specifically told him that I will not use him in the ninth, but I would have to probably use him in the sixth or seventh inning. So and that worked out good.”
Should the Nationals opt to make a change for Game 3, it likely would be pushing up Anibal Sanchez one day. Corbin could pitch in relief Sunday or Monday, with Scherzer possibly starting Game 4 and Strasburg lined up or a potential winner-take-all Game 5 back at Dodger Stadium.
“I’m going to sit back tonight and think about a bunch of different things and wake up tomorrow and get on a plane and think about a bunch of different things and then we’ll be ready to go,” Martinez said.
With a shaky bullpen the Nationals appear determined to lean on their three starters as much as possible. “Before the series started, before we even got to the playoffs, our game plan was to try to utilize these guys the best way possible without disrupting their starts,” Martinez said.
“And we talked to all of them and they have all been on board. So it’s just part of it. When you get to these games, I’ve said this before, you’re playing to win one game. Every day’s crucial.”
There won’t be a change for the Dodgers in Game 3, as Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to make his 2019 postseason debut. Rich Hill is their expected fourth starter.