The Nationals have their final scheduled off-day of the season Thursday. After which they’re hoping to play their final seven games in six days as planned.
The problem: Nobody knows at this point if it will possible to play all seven of those games in time due to a dismal weather forecast.
As Hurricane Ian made landfall today on Florida’s Gulf Coast, attention understandably has been on those communities now dealing with dangerous wind and flooding. But the remnants of the Category 4 storm could wreak havoc with the entire East Coast in the coming days, and that would have a direct impact on multiple series that need to be played to determine the National League pennant race.
The Nationals are scheduled to host the Phillies for four games in three days, with a Saturday doubleheader in the middle, while the Mets face the Braves in Atlanta for three games. Then the Nats head to New York to finish the season with three games at Citi Field, where weather still could be an issue Monday.
For now, Friday looks like the best day of the weekend here in Washington, with Saturday the worst and Sunday potentially somewhat better. Given that, the Nationals and Phillies are waiting to hear from Major League Baseball about the possibility of the Saturday doubleheader being moved to Friday, in the hopes they could at least get two games played before the worst of the storm arrives.
“Nothing concrete,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’re hearing a bunch of different things. I think they’re going to wait and see where this thing is moving.”
The Braves and Mets enter play today tied for the NL East lead, with the eventual winner earning an automatic bye until the best-of-five NLDS and the loser forced to host a best-of-three Wild Card Series before potentially facing the top-seeded Dodgers in the NLDS. The Phillies currently have a tenuous, 1 1/2-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card berth in the NL.
Point is, all of these games could matter in the standings, right down the end. And in a worst-case scenario, that could mean MLB forcing the Phillies to come back to D.C. on Oct. 6 for a makeup game the day after the season is supposed to end.
Even without the weather concerns, the Nationals have pitching questions they still need answered before setting their rotation the rest of the way. They haven’t yet announced any starters for the weekend series against the Phillies, waiting to see if Patrick Corbin is ready to return from a minor back injury and if MacKenzie Gore is ready to make his team debut after four rehab starts for Triple-A Rochester.
“We haven’t even set the rotation for this weekend yet, because of various reasons,” Martinez said. “As we all know, the weather could be bad. We’ve got a day off tomorrow. We’ll wait until after the game today to figure something out.”
That’s all on Martinez’s mind right now, though all of it takes a backseat to his more pressing concern: The welfare of his family in the Tampa Bay area.
“I pray for all the people in the state of Florida,” he said. “It sounds like they’re going through a horrific time. My family’s there, so I’ve been on the phone trying to communicate with them. So far, so good. But it’s taking a toll right now, and I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather. My prayers go out to all those people.”