NLDS Game 5: Nats need epic outing from Strasburg

washington nationalsThe game plan for Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez going into NLDS Game 4 was, get seven innings, at least, from Max Scherzer, and see what happens.

The plan going into the Game 5 series finale in LA on Wednesday is the same with Stephen Strasburg.

“He’s a big reason why we’re playing Game 5. And I’m glad we gave him the ball and run him out there and see how long he can go for us,” Martinez said.

Strasburg has already pitched twice this postseason, giving Martinez three scoreless innings in relief to get the win in the NL wild-card game against Milwaukee on Oct. 1, then limiting the Dodgers to a run on three hits in six innings in the 4-2 Nats’ win on Oct. 4 in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Strasburg has struck out 14 in nine playoff innings in 2019, allowing five hits without walking any opposing hitters.

And he’ll be pitching on normal rest on Wednesday, after having to go on short rest for the Game 2 start.

Strasburg is ready for the moment, for what that’s worth.

“I don’t know, I mean, I’ve said this before, I think it’s something that you train for, you dream about as a kid, and you want to have those opportunities to just see how your stuff stacks up. When you’re in the moment and stuff it’s a great feeling, just going out there and competing against the best,” Strasburg said.

He’ll have to out-duel Game 1 winner Walker Buehler, who held Washington to one hit in six scoreless innings in the 6-0 win, striking out eight and walking three.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made it clear after the Game 4 loss that ace Clayton Kershaw will be available in the ‘pen if Buehler runs into any trouble in Game 5.

“Obviously this game, Clayton was available, and it was more of a situation seventh, eighth, sixth, seventh, eighth, potentially ninth inning tied or with the lead. And so obviously the game got away from us, and so now to preserve him and to have him ready to go, whatever we need from him, for Game 5, is certainly a good thing to be piggybacked at some point with Walker. That’s kind of the thought,” Roberts said.

Which is to say, Roberts doesn’t need to necessarily get seven or eight innings from Buehler, like Martinez needs to get seven or eight from Strasburg.

Plus, Roberts has the fourth-best bullpen in MLB in 2019 (3.78 ERA) to back up Buehler and Kershaw.

Martinez, in the other dugout, has MLB’s worst bullpen (5.66 ERA in 2019), which is why he’s already had to use Strasburg, Scherzer and a third starter, Patrick Corbin, in relief this postseason.

Corbin may be available for Martinez for Game 5, but this would be after he was shelled for six runs in two-thirds of an inning in relief in the 10-4 loss to LA in Game 3 on Sunday.

Corbin threw 35 pitches in that stint, after taking the loss in Game 1, giving up three runs, two earned, in six innings, allowing three hits, walking five and striking out nine, on 107 pitches.

It might be safe to assume that neither Corbin nor Scherzer will be available for Martinez, which is why it’s incumbent that Strasburg go deep, deep, deep in this one for the Nationals to have a shot.

Ryan Zimmerman, whose three-run homer in the fifth helped lift the Nats to the 6-1 win in Game 4 that kept the season alive, for now, is looking forward to the challenge.

“Going to LA for Game 5 and Walker Buehler versus Stephen Strasburg with Kershaw probably available in the ‘pen, I mean, this is why you play the game. This is what we live for,” Zimmerman said.

Story by Chris Graham

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