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How a 110mph ball could affect the Nationals' rotation and Joe Ross

How a 110mph ball could affect the Nationals' rotation and Joe Ross

First the news: Joe Ross exited Monday’s start with one out in the fourth inning after a comebacker hit his right leg. Ross didn’t take any practice pitches before leaving. His conversation with Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard was enough to get him off the field. 

The ball was hit 110 mph at Ross. The hardest of the night. It clanged off his leg before he threw to first. It’s also terrible timing and the only thing that has slowed him in August.

Why bad timing? Because either he or Erick Fedde is coming out of the rotation Thursday when Max Scherzer is activated. Ross has a clear case he should stay. Now, he’s hurt. To what extent is unclear. X-rays were negative, according to reports out of Pittsburgh. 

But, his August has been dominant. Not good. Or decent. Dominant. He’s thrown 21 ⅓ innings and allowed one earned run. That’s a 0.42 ERA. Monday, he was on his way to a fourth consecutive win while operating with an 11-0 lead.

The Nationals eventually won, 13-0. They have seven of eight, are five games out of first place and 12 games over .500.

What’s different for Ross? Multiple things. Ross is bringing his knee higher before delivering his pitches. He’s also altered his usage. In the three previous August starts, Ross threw 50% sinkers. The average velocity of those sinkers was 94 mph.

This is why Ross appeared to be a possible bullpen weapon. It’s an interesting arm for a manager to deploy, especially with runners on base. However, that failed, as did most of his post-Tommy John surgery starts.

Then August arrived. 

Fedde has pitched well, too. His three August starts led to a 3.18 ERA. Though, his strikeout-to-walk ratio hints he hasn’t been in command of those innings. His WHIP is also 1.53. Ross’ WHIP coming into Monday was 1.00. It hints at two things: who has the higher ceiling and who is on the better run.

Both have been crucial without Scherzer, who is finally locked in to pitch for the first time since July 25. Scherzer has made two starts since July 6. Yet, the Nationals are 23-14 in that span. He’s back on the mound Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Who shows up in Chicago is now the question. Ross was in line to start Saturday. Aníbal Sánchez - bumped to Friday by Scherzer’s return - is in a spot to open the series. Stephen Strasburg is set to close the series. 

Ross deserved the chance to keep going, a move which would likely flip Fedde into the bullpen and a veteran reliever -- possibly Javy Guerra, again -- out of it. Now it’s up to his leg cooperating by the weekend.

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Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg lined up as Wild-Card Game options if Nationals make it

Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg lined up as Wild-Card Game options if Nationals make it

Washington has options at the end of next week.

It shuffled this weekend’s rotation in order to put end-of-season choices in play. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg are in a place where they could each influence the final game of the season or the Wild-Card Game.

First, to this weekend: Aníbal Sánchez, Strasburg and Austin Voth are lined up to pitch against Miami. Sánchez has a 3.31 ERA against the Marlins this season, Strasburg a 1.19 ERA in four starts, Voth has not faced the Marlins.

Voth was moved back a day to accommodate this setup. Sánchez and Strasburg will be on regular rest. Patrick Corbin receives an extra day off before he starts the Phillies series. 

Which, in part, is what this is about. Corbin pitches the opener Monday. He is set to pitch again Saturday. Which means he could possibly be available for an inning in the Wild-Card Game on Oct. 1 and definitely available if needed for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, which starts Oct. 3, exactly when Corbin would be on regular rest.

Scherzer, who looked sharp most of Wednesday in St. Louis, should pitch the night portion of next week’s split day-night doubleheader against Philadelphia. The day-side portion of that game will fall to Erick Fedde or Jeremy Hellickson, the latter of which has not pitched in a major-league game since May 19. 

Pitching on Tuesday means Scherzer can pitch Sunday in game 162 if the Nationals need to win to get in. Otherwise, it means he can pitch Oct. 1 on extended rest. Should Washington make the postseason -- still a lot of work to do there -- and win the Wild-Card Game -- getting ahead of ourselves -- he would be able to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS in Nationals Park.

Next is Strasburg. After pitching Saturday in Miami, he should pitch Thursday against Philadelphia. That alignment puts him on regular rest for the Wild-Card Game. Which leaves the recently much-discussed choice: Scherzer or Strasburg to start a winner-take-all game? Both could be available. At the least, Scherzer could pitch game 162 or (gasp) 163 and Strasburg would be available for the Wild-Card Game.

So, a subtle shift this weekend set up everything to come. That’s if the Nationals can get into the postseason.

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Nationals Roundup: Max Scherzer lets up five runs in Cardinals series finale

Nationals Roundup: Max Scherzer lets up five runs in Cardinals series finale

The Washington Nationals were in hopes of winning their final matchup against the Cardinals today after yesterday's win.

Here are the most recent news and notes.

Players Notes:

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer allowed five runs in Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals. This is only the second time this season out of his past 20 starts that he allowed more than a single home run.

First baseman Matt Adams was seen practicing his swing Wednesday morning for the first time since he sprained his AC joint in his left shoulder last week. He’s expected to hopefully return in the closing week of the regular season. 

Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin struck out 11 batters on Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, but he also allowed two unearned runs in their 6-2 win.

Injuries:

C Spencer Kieboom: Elbow, 2020

C Kurt Suzuki: Elbow, day-to-day

RP Joe Ross: Arm, day-to-day

RP Roenis Elias: Hamstring, possible late September

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, out indefinitely

1B Matt Adams: Shoulder, day-to-day

RP Jonny Venters: Shoulder, 2020

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Friday: 9/20: Nationals @ Marlins, 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Saturday 9/21: Nationals @ Marlins, 6:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Sunday 9/22: Nationals @ Marlins, 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Source: Rotoworld

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