Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has built his team around starting pitching, and boy, have those starters come through in the club’s first-ever trip to the NLCS.
Stephen Strasburg confounded the Cardinals for seven innings in NLCS Game 3 on Monday, striking out 12 while allowing just one unearned run in the Nats’ 8-1 victory. The only run charged to Strasburg’s ledger scored on a Juan Soto error.
Strasburg joined Bob Gibson as the only two pitchers in baseball history to notch two 12+ strikeout postseason games while not permitting an earned run. The right-hander has now reached double digits in strikeouts in four of his six career playoff starts. Only Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Randy Johnson and Gibson have more. His 1.10 ERA is the third-lowest ever by a pitcher with at least six postseason starts, with only Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax (0.95) and Christy Mathewson (1.06) having lower marks.
The brilliant effort by Strasburg comes on the heels of Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer flirting with no-hitters in the first two games of the series. Nationals starters have allowed just one unearned run on nine hits and three walks while recording 28 strikeouts across 21 2/3 innings in the series. Remarkable.
It wasn’t all pitching for the Nats on Monday, of course. Howie Kendrick continued his incredible postseason with three doubles in Game 3, driving in three runs and scoring a couple more. Anthony Rendon reached base three more times and has now done so 19 times in nine playoff games. Victor Robles singled and belted a solo homer in his first game back from a hamstring injury.
As far as the Cardinals go, their offense continues to be non-existent in the series. Their only two runs scored on miscues by Nationals outfielders and they have managed a mere 11 hits in three games. It’s hard to believe it’s the same team that put away the Braves in the NLDS with 10 runs in the first inning of Game 5.
Bullpen to be Busy in ALCS Game 4
If the weather cooperates, we’re going to see a lot of the Yankees’ and Astros’ bullpens in ALCS Game 4 on Wednesday.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone revealed Monday that he envisions going with a “bullpen game” in Game 4, with J.A. Happ likely to be a “big part” of the plan. Happ will not start, as Boone plans to use an opener. Chad Green is an obvious choice since he’s been used most often in that spot, although it could depend on whether he’s needed in relief in Game 3 on Tuesday.
As for the Astros, they also have not yet announced a starter for Game 4, but skipper A.J. Hinch anticipates using Jose Urquidy, whether it be as a starter or bulk guy.
“Maybe Urquidy starts, maybe Urquidy comes in the middle of the game and we start someone with more experience,” Hinch said.
This may all be a moot point, as it’s expected to rain throughout the day in New York on Wednesday. A postponement of Game 4 would allow the two clubs to bring back their Game 1 starters – Zack Greinke for the Astros and Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees – on regular rest Thursday.
As for Game 3 on Tuesday, it will be Gerrit Cole versus Luis Severino. Giancarlo Stanton (quad) hit in the batting cage on Sunday and might be back in the lineup for Game 3. If he’s not quite ready, the team could use Aaron Hicks in center field and shift Brett Gardner to left.
Quick Hits: Astros bench coach Joe Espada interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial opening on Monday. The Cubs are also expected to interview former Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler this week, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com … Mike Puma of the New York Post has reported that the Mets will interview ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez for their managerial vacancy … Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson will interview for the Pirates' manager job next week … Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area has reported that the Giants have interest in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their managerial vacancy … Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Monday that he expects his contract situation with the club to be finalized within days. He had been rumored as a potential candidate to fill the same role with the Red Sox … Friedman also said Monday Kenley Jansen is still the team's closer, but also added that "we will see how things play out".