The Nationals roster for tonight’s wild card game includes four members of their rotation, only five members of their usual bullpen, three catchers and an eight-man bench.
Suffice it to say, the strategy for this do-or-die game against the Brewers is just a bit different than it is for any other game in the regular season or postseason.
The Nationals announced their 25-man roster this morning, and while most of the names come as no surprise, there are a few twists.
Most notably, the Nats decided to keep the top four members of their rotation active, with Max Scherzer starting and Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez all available out of the bullpen. Strasburg and Corbin most likely would be used as a bridge between Scherzer and the back end of the bullpen. Sánchez is most likely being saved in case of extra innings.
The Nationals will field a staff of only nine pitchers in total, only five of them true relievers: Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, Fernando Rodney, Tanner Rainey and Hunter Strickland. Not included on the roster is Wander Suero, who led the team with 78 appearances this season but was less consistent down the stretch than Rainey, who makes the roster as a rookie.
With Kurt Suzuki starting tonight but still dealing with a sore elbow, the Nationals decided to carry a third catcher. Raudy Read will be on the bench along with Yan Gomes, which also gives manager Davey Martinez the ability to use Gomes as a pinch-hitter while still having another catcher available in case of emergency.
The bench will feature a whopping eight players, two of those the backup catchers. Assuming Howie Kendrick and Asdrúbal Cabrera are in the lineup, Martinez will have left-handed pinch-hitting options in Matt Adams and Gerardo Parra, right-handed options in Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Dozier and two pinch-running and outfield-defense options in Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson.
If the Nationals win tonight, they will be allowed to reset their 25-man roster for the best-of-five National League Division Series against the Dodgers and almost certainly would carry more relievers and fewer bench players.