For the first time in a long time, the Nationals finally have their projected starting lineup back. And it comes with three games left in the season.
The question is will Dusty Baker use this same lineup for the postseason.
Probably not. Baker has placed Bryce Harper in the No. 2 hole to maximize the number of at-bats he can get during a game if he wants him to only go six or seven innings. Harper got the day off Thursday after two games in Philadelphia. Harper had admitted he was a little bit sore.
“Yesterday, we gave it off to him,” Baker said. “I’m assuming that he’s fine. If I don’t hear anything from the trainers or anything from him directly, I just put him in the lineup and expect him to make progress.”
Baker really appreciates having his starting lineup back to where he wanted it from the beginning of the season (minus Adam Eaton with a knee injury).
“That’s unbelievable. It feels pretty good,” Baker said. “Sometimes you get used to not having them. So you don’t want to think about what it would be like to have them when you get used to not having them. Because you try to figure out things every day. Trying to figure out best lineups, best this, best that. I’m just glad that we are in a situation where we can have them all.
“Now hopefully they can get sharp. That’s what we need now. Because everybody on paper you’re this, you’re that, but the paper doesn’t play. If the guys on paper (aren’t) sharp, the paper doesn’t mean anything. I’m just glad we have them all back. It’s been a while.”
Because the lineup has never really been where Baker wanted it from the beginning of the season and coupled with the Nats having solid depth and interchangeable parts, he has been allowed to experiment a bit with his daily lineup.
“Yeah, I tinker with it all the time,” Baker said. “Earlier in the year, I had (Daniel) Murphy batting fourth. And then we put (Ryan Zimmerman) in the fourth and now tonight we’re tinkering again having Zim batting fifth. I’m going to tinker with who I think looks the best at that point in time. Because guys get hot and guys get cold.
“You get cold if you’re hitting the ball well, then I got to take that into consideration if you’re not getting hits or another guy’s getting hits but they’re little cheap hits. They count, but you’re not really swinging it too well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of help from you guys and outside people telling me what my lineup should be. Nowadays you get that a lot.”
When Harper is ready to go for postseason, would Baker go to: Turner, Werth, Harper, Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman, Wieters, Taylor and pitcher spot?
“You guys will read in whatever you want,” Baker said. “I’m serious. That’s your job, to read into things. And then ask me and then I’ll tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
“Either way, that’s a pretty good order isn’t it?”
So that sounds like Strasburg indeed has a chance to be the Game 1 starter.