The Nationals entered this week knowing they’d need some strong pitching performances to hold down strong lineups from Philadelphia and Atlanta.
That still remains true, but the rain threw a wrinkle into the team’s plans.
After gearing up to pitch both Monday and Tuesday, Patrick Corbin finally got his chance Wednesday afternoon in game one of the doubleheader.
Max Scherzer, despite *literally breaking his nose* the night before, twirled a 7-inning shutout gem in game two, giving the Nationals their second win in one day.
Erick Fedde took the mound to start Thursday night, leaving the full picture mostly clear.
Stephen Strasburg will match up against the Braves Friday night, looking to bounce back from allowing six earned runs in five innings his last time out. It’s been two poor starts in the last three for Strasburg, coming off a sterling month of May, so the Nats are hoping this is just a blip on the radar.
The Friday night outing will be worth paying attention to, as opposite Strasburg will be former Cy Young-winner Dallas Keuchel making his season debut after finally signing with Atlanta earlier this month.
On Saturday, Anibal Sanchez will try to continue his recent hot streak. Sanchez has only allowed seven earned runs since the end of April, with zero, one, one and two in his previous four outings. The strikeouts haven’t been there, but the run prevention has.
Sanchez, of course, had a nice bounce-back season in 2018 in Atlanta, leading to his deal with the Nationals this year. His best start of the season came at the end of May in Atlanta.
Sunday is when the proverbial “TBA” is scheduled to start for the Nationals. The speculation, right now, is that Joe Ross will make his return to the rotation.
Ross has made 16 appearances this season, all out of the bullpen, and Davey Martinez has noticed some positives recently.
"Last outing he pitched, he pitched well,” Martinez told reporters. “Slider was very effective. Up to that point, his slider was not what he hoped it to be. The other day he had a really good slider. That was good."
The slider was Ross’ most effective pitch by xwOBA in 2018 and has been his second-most effective in 2019 while throwing it nearly one-third of the time.
When asked if Ross is a starter or a reliever, Martinez was direct about his opinion.
"We want him to start,” the manager said. “We want him to keep gradually extending his innings and getting his pitch count up."
If Ross can find his consistency while building up his stamina, he could eventually wind up as the solution to the rotation’s back-end woes. For now, the Nats would be happy with a single effective start, especially coming up against the hottest team in baseball, who happens to be leading the NL East.
The Nationals are going to have to rely on their rotation in the coming months if they want to compete for a division title. This weekend will be no different, regardless of who actually takes the mound.
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