The Washington Nationals have forced a Game Five in their home ballpark after beating the Chicago Cubs in a frustrating, rainy contest at Wrigley Field last night.
Game One starter, Kyle Hendricks, will take the ball for the Cubs at 7:00 PM CT (with a possible Jose Quintana piggyback), and about the only other thing we know is that Stephen Strasburg probably won’t take the mound for the Nationals again.
Instead, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, it’s likely to be either Game Two starter Gio Gonzalez, or previously-scheduled Game Four starter Tanner Roark (with Max Scherzer available out of the pen). Obviously, the differences in their abilities and splits is a pretty important distinction, so we’ll be following closely to see how and whom the Nationals decide.
“We’re going to make up our mind, see the condition of everybody, and I’m not sure,” Baker said, via Nationals.com. “I’m not trying to be coy at all because that was the theme of the day, you know, with Stras. You know, whoever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did today.”
So … you admit it? You were being coy (actually, never mind, I don’t even care anymore).
Gonzalez faced the Cubs on Saturday and they did reasonably well against him: 5.0 IP, 3H, 3ER, 2BB, 6Ks; 2HRs. Kris Bryant, in particular, had two hits including a double, while Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras each went deep. Given how well Hendricks has been pitching, you’d probably take a repeat performance from the bats.
Also of interest: Gonzalez allowed three earned runs over 5.0 IP in Game Five of the 2012 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything for tonight’s performance/game in particular, I just found it interesting and thought you might, too.
Tanner Roark was supposed to pitch on Tuesday, before Game 4 was pushed back and the Nationals reshuffled their rotation, so he never wound up starting. He’ll come in, then, with plenty of rest, which can be both good and bad. On the one hand, his arm should feel strong and well-rested, but on the other hand his last start was over two weeks ago, and he prepared to start on both Tuesday, and, to an extent, yesterday. (A reminder: Roark is probably better than his season numbers look.)
My guess is that the Nationals would prefer Roark to be the guy to take the ball, so that Gonzalez can pitch early and theoretically twice in the 7-game NLCS against the Dodgers (if they win), but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Gonzalez tonight.
And just to remind you once again: Max Scherzer is available out of the bullpen and will probably come into this game if the Nationals are down past the fifth inning or so. We’ll keep you updated as the day goes on and let you know as soon as there’s something to know.