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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