The Nationals are waiting until Tuesday to make their debut in World Series and they enjoy a rested starting rotation, almost assuredly beginning with Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Stephen Strasburg in Game 2 in Houston or New York.
General manager Mike Rizzo all but confirmed that setup on 106.7 The Fan this week and then at Friday’s workout open to the media.
The 115th Fall Classic begins with Game 1 on Tuesday night at 8:08 p.m. Eastern time. Game 2 will be Wednesday night at 8:07 p.m. Eastern time
“Davey (Martinez) and I haven’t met officially yet. I don’t think pitching plans will come as any shock to anybody,” Rizzo said Friday afternoon in front of the Nationals dugout during batting practice.
Martinez hinted that the rotation variation may have something to wo whether they face the Astros or the Yankees. Houston leads the American League Championship Series three games to two with Game 6 Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
“I’m looking at it,” Martinez said. “They’re still playing baseball. We’re doing our due diligence on both. Once that series is over, then we’ll have a better idea of what we want to do.”
The Nationals’ strategy was successful in the five-game NL Division Series against the Dodgers. Aníbal Sánchez started Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. Now, with six days off before their first game in the World Series, the Nats rotation can get back to a regular schedule.
“It will give them a little pause,” Rizzo said of the nearly week off between games. “I think for the starting pitchers, it’s the easiest for them to adapt because they’re used to time off in between their starts. The sharpness and the rhythm and the routine affects the offensive players more and the bullpen guys more.”
But having Scherzer, Strasburg, left-hander Patrick Corbin and Sánchez available and fully rested, in any order, is a good problem to have.
“It’s really nice,” Martinez said. “I’ve said this all year: Our starting pitching was the key. They kept us in every ballgame this year. And they’ve done it all playoffs. So it’s nice to go out there with a Max Scherzer, Strasburg, Sánchez, Corbin. These guys are a big reason why we’re here.”
But Martinez cautioned that he has an eye on the World Series going the distance, hinting that he wants to make sure he has his best starters available more than once in the series. That might be a starter first and then a reliever later with the chance this World Series goes seven games.
“For me, it’s making sure these guys are ready and healthy,” he said. “These guys have pitched a lot. And I want to make sure it’s not just about Game 1. It’s about Games 4, 5, 6, 7. We’ve got to make sure we prepare ourselves for seven games and that we do our due diligence on each one.”
It’s no secret the main reason the Nationals had even a shot of getting to a spot they’ve never been is their starting pitching. The Nats’ four top starters have combined to go 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA in 10 starts in the postseason.
“For me, you look at all the great teams, teams that won, teams that went on, and you look at their starting pitching,” Martinez said. “To me, that’s the key. I look back, even back in the day, when I was a kid. Yeah, you had the Reggie Jacksons, but people don’t realize you had the Ron Guidrys that got ‘em there, that kept ‘em there, that won 20 games.
“The Baltimore Orioles had three (pitchers win) 20 games-plus. The Boston Red Sox, back when Pedro (Martinez) and (Curt) Schilling were there. And the Yankees when they were really good. Go in there and face those guys: (Roger) Clemens, (Mike) Mussina and those guys. To me, that’s how you start a winning team, with your starting rotation.”
If the Nats decide on Scherzer and Strasburg for Games 1 and 2 as expected, Scherzer would be on regular rest to return for Game 5 and Strasburg would get an extra day of rest for Game 6.
In that scenario, Corbin would be the starter for Game 7 on regular rest with Scherzer and Sánchez available out of the bullpen. And you could imagine Strasburg (and even Scherzer) not being afraid to be vocal about helping out as well.
What are your thoughts on lining up the starting rotation?