Nationals manager Davey Martinez will start Yan Gomes in Game 2 to catch right-hander Max Scherzer. This will allow Kurt Suzuki more time to rehab as he gets better from an elbow injury that has prevented him from starting since September 5. Raudy Read is starting game one for Joe Ross.
“Yan will catch the second game,” Martinez said. “I had a long conversation with Suzuki and Paul (Lessard) last night after the game. He’s about 70-75 percent right now. And he’s progressing so I’d rather not push the envelope right now and just get him ready hopefully by Friday or Saturday. Then by Friday or Saturday he’ll be ready to catch.”
But fast forward to a week from today in the National League wild card game with Scherzer most likely on the hill. Martinez said if that game was today, Suzuki would go.
“Let’s put it this way, if today was the wild card game, there’s a good chance Suzuki is catching,” Martinez said. “But because we have a little time, I’d rather get him as close as possible to 100 percent as I can. The good news is he’s available to pinch-hit and it doesn’t bother him swinging the bat which is nice and he’s feeling better throwing wise.”
Bench coach Chip Hale was hopeful on Monday that Suzuki would get the start tonight.
Martinez said the focus for Suzuki these past few weeks is strengthening his arm and making a slight adjustment in his throws. Suzuki has made some changes to his throwing motion during this time off working with bullpen coach Henry Blanco.
“He’s changed a little bit of his mechanics working with Henry so we want him to keep working at it,” Martinez said. “He’s catching bullpens, he’s emulating throwing to second base, everything. He’s progressing fine.”
“He’s catching more now, getting down, in bullpens, then he does in a game,” Martinez noted. “He’s trying to catch everybody down there to the point where we have to the tell him, ‘Hey, you’ve had enough.’ He’s blocking balls. He’s emulating throwing without throwing. Yesterday he threw 120 feet and actually got down and threw OK. He said, ‘I don’t just have the arm strength that I want.’ So the next few days he’s going to work on getting that arm strength back.”
The next goal for Suzuki is to look to start a game during the weekend series against the Indians. If the Nats can clinch the wild card and even home field advantage in the next four games against the Phillies, this will allow Martinez the freedom to get Suzuki in a game this weekend and then get him some rest to prep for the wild card matchup.
“We are trying to get him to Friday or Saturday,” Martinez said. “If we take a chance and he gets hurt again, he’s pretty much done for the year.
“If you guys know Kurt, he wants to play. He wants to be out there. I talked to him yesterday and he’s adamant about trying to play this weekend. So, I told him let’s just see where we are at. For longevity purposes, we need you to get right. We will see where we are at Friday.
“We want to Kurt to play but we want to be smart. I told Kurt, every time you catch the ball, you got to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Every time there’s a strikeout you got to throw the ball to third base or first base. You are constantly throwing. This is something we got to think about.”
Best case scenario is the Nats clinching here in the next couple of days, allowing Martinez a chance to start Raudy Read and even rookie Tres Barrera. This would allow some rest time for Gomes and Suzuki. Then, drop in Suzuki for one game this weekend and he would be good to go for Tuesday’s must-win wild card game.
Update: Ross allowed a walk to César Hernández to start the game. Then three of the next four batters singled. Jean Segura’s RBI single made it 1-0 Phillies with only one away. But Ross battled to strike out Scott Kingery swinging and induced a weak grounder from Adam Haseley to first base to end the inning.
Phillies starter Blake Parker pitched 1-2-3 first and second frames before being lifted. He threw 27 pitches, 18 for strikes. He struck out two batters and allowed no walks.
Right-hander Mike Morin came in relief in the bottom of the third. He struck out two of the three batters he faced.
After three innings, the Phillies lead the Nats 1-0.
Update II: Anthony Rendon hit a pair of sacrifice fly RBIs and Ryan Zimmerman had a run-scoring single as the Nats get on the board in the fourth and take the lead in the sixth. Ross goes four innings, allowing one run on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
After six innings, the Nats lead the Phillies 3-1.
Update III: The Nats added a run in the eighth inning thanks to a wild pitch by right-hander Edgar Garcia. Sean Doolittle tossed a scoreless eighth inning, reaching 93-95 mph on his fastball.
Daniel Hudson earned the save with a scoreless ninth inning. The Nats’ magic number is two to clinch a playoff spot. The Phillies have been eliminated from postseason contention.
The final score: the Nats 4, the Phillies 1.