ST. LOUIS - Neither Kurt Suzuki nor Victor Robles is in the Nationals lineup for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, but both injured players remain on the active roster, suggesting there’s reason to believe both will be ready to return soon.
Suzuki, who took a fastball off his wrist and then his face in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday night, was still undergoing tests this afternoon, according to manager Davey Martinez.
“I’ll know more in the next coming hours or something like that, but we need to be cautious,” Martinez said. “When it comes to a head injury, we got to make sure that he’s good to go.”
Suzuki, who participated in the post-clinch celebration in Los Angeles, said that night he was OK. On Thursday, Martinez said X-rays on the catcher’s wrist were negative but that he’d still need to go through concussion protocol before being cleared to play.
One encouraging sign: Suzuki did take batting practice on the field before tonight’s game. And the fact he was included on the NLCS roster suggests the team is fairly confident he’ll be able to play soon.
Robles also took BP this afternoon and appears close to returning from the hamstring injury he suffered during Game 2 of the NLDS one week ago.
The 22-year-old has been asking to play, but the Nationals have taken a cautious route with the energetic rookie center fielder until they’re confident he’s not as risk of more serious injury.
“It’s kind of a day-to-day thing,” Martinez said. “He’s about 80 to 85 percent. If you know Victor, he’s an all-out guy. He’s not going to let up. So we want to make sure when we get him back ... to me, it’s worth him missing another day or two to get him fully back, hopefully.”
Update: The Nationals haven’t done much at the plate so far tonight, but they’ve done enough to take a 1-0 lead. That’s because Howie Kendrick and Yan Gomes delivered doubles in the top of the second, the latter coming with two outs and bringing Kendrick home. That’s all they’ve needed to date, because Aníbal Sánchez has been outstanding on the mound. Sánchez has faced 13 batters and retired 12 of them, allowing only a one-out walk to Kolten Wong in the bottom of the fourth. Wong wound up reaching third on a stolen base with a Gomes throwing error tacked on. But Sánchez immediately got Marcell Ozuna to pop up to end the threat.
Update II: There’s the insurance run the Nats have needed for several innings. Kendrick came through with a two-out RBI single to center in the seventh, extending the lead to 2-0. And now all eyes are on Sánchez, who through six innings has allowed just two men to reach base: one via walk, one via hit-by-pitch.
Update III: First baseman Ryan Zimmerman made a headlong diving stop of Tommy Edman’s liner for the first out of the eighth, denying the Cardinals their first hit. After Paul DeJong skied to center, pinch-hitter José Martínez broke up the no-hit bid with a line drive single to center. That chased Sánchez, who allowed a hit, walked one and struck out five through 7 2/3 innings. Sean Doolittle relieved and got Dexter Fowler to ground to third for the final out.
Update IV: Doolittle pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, securing a 2-0 win that gives the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.