The significance of the series, given the Nationals’ current predicament in the standings, can be debated. But if nothing else, they can take some solace in knowing they’ll finally be able to send their three best starting pitchers to the mound this week against the Phillies.
Davey Martinez confirmed as much this morning when he announced that Stephen Strasburg will return from the disabled list and start Wednesday night’s game at Nationals Park. The rehabbing right-hander will be surrounded by Tanner Roark in Tuesday’s series opener and Max Scherzer in Thursday’s finale.
“It’s nice to be able to go into that series with our three best pitchers,” Martinez said.
Strasburg will be making his first appearance in any type of game since July 20, when he opened the second half of the season coming off a shoulder injury and was roughed up by the Braves for six runs in 4 2/3 innings. After that outing, he went back on the DL with what was diagnosed as a cervical nerve impingement in his neck, a condition doctors believe was the cause of the original shoulder injury.
Strasburg flew to Los Angeles, where he received a nerve-block injection, and he has reported only positive developments since, straight through a 70-pitch simulated game Wednesday in St. Louis. Given how well that went - not to mention the urgent situation the Nationals now face down seven games in the National League East with 38 games to go - Strasburg will eschew the minor league rehab start that typically would be part of a pitcher’s rehab program.
“Credit to Stras that he got himself ready to pitch for us and have that opportunity to go up against a team we’re trying to catch,” Martinez said. “He’s been working diligently to get ready, and he feels good.”
Strasburg could be returned as soon as Tuesday to start the series opener, but the Nationals will give him one extra day of preparation and go with Roark, who is 5-0 with a 1.77 ERA since the All-Star break, in the opener on normal rest.
The Phillies haven’t finalized their rotation plan for the series yet, but Aaron Nola is expected to start Thursday against Scherzer in a showdown of Cy Young Award contenders. Vince Velasquez is lined up to start Tuesday versus Roark, with Wednesday’s pitcher still to be determined.