Rotation riding high

Teams can win games any number of ways during the regular season.

You can have a high-powered offense, one that lives by the home run. You can be aggressive on the basepaths, putting pressure on the opposing defense by taking extra bases. You can have a strong defensive club, one that makes all the routine plays and has a way of stealing a few outs, as well.

The Nationals have shown that they have the ability to win games in any of those ways. But in the postseason, pitching is paramount. You get your starting pitching going, you have a great chance of success.

And so, with that in mind, I’ll lay out for you the numbers put up by the Nationals five starting pitchers in September.

Stephen Strasburg: 1.13 ERA in 32 innings, 32 strikeouts, three walks, .194 opponents’ batting average
Jordan Zimmermann: 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, 34 strikeouts, four walks, .172 opponents’ batting average
Doug Fister: 1.87 ERA in 33 2/3 innings, 18 strikeouts, eight walks, .205 opponents’ batting average
Gio Gonzalez: 2.48 ERA in 32 2/3 innings, 31 strikeouts, five walks, .179 opponents’ batting average
Tanner Roark: 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings, 14 strikeouts, two walks, .240 opponents’ batting average

Those five starters finished the season going a combined 13-0 in their final 13 starts.

Uh, is that good?

roark-pitching-white-sidebar.jpgRoark, it seems, will be the odd man out come the National League Division Series, when the Nats only need four starting pitchers in their rotation. As well as the 27-year-old righty has pitched, he has the ability to go to the bullpen and provide support there, as a guy who can work a single inning if needed or multiple innings if a starter gets in trouble or a game goes into extras.

That leaves Strasburg, Zimmermann, Fister and Gonzalez as part of the expected NLDS rotation, likely in that order. (Although the Nats likely won’t make any official announcements until Thursday’s workout.)

Here’s what those four have done collectively in their last turn through the rotation: 31 innings pitched, zero runs, six hits, 38 strikeouts, 4 walks.

You get the idea.

“Our starting rotation’s been unbelievable,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “They threw a stat up there on the board during the game, they’ve got like a 0.90 ERA over their last however many starts. It’s incredible. These guys are unbelievable, top to bottom, one through five There’s really no clear-cut (No.) 1, because they’re all 1s. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of it.”

Strasburg hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts, spanning 20 innings. Zimmermann brushed off a comebacker to the right shoulder and delivered a no-hitter his next time out. Fister is playoff-tested and has been solid all season. Gonzalez has really pitched well the last six weeks or so, and has cut down on his walk rate.

It’s hard to imagine a rotation pitching better entering the postseason. Nats fans just hope it continues once playoff games begin.

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