It’s been a roller coaster 18 hours for the Washington Nationals. On Tuesday, the team said that Stephen Strasburg was too sick to take the mound for the team’s do-or-die NLDS Game 4 against the Chicago Cubs. But now? Not so much. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi had the news.
In a surprise turn of events — that followed an initial surprise turn of events — Strasburg will be on the mound Wednesday when the Nats face the Cubs at Wrigley. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi was first to break the news, and the Nats later confirmed it:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 11, 2017
Nationals make it official: Stephen Strasburg will start Game 4 of the NLDS.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) October 11, 2017
In a news conference on Tuesday, Nationals manager Dusty Baker had said that despite the rainout of Game 4 (which would have allowed Strasburg to start on normal rest), they were going with Tanner Roark because Strasburg was under the weather. Baker also said that others on the team were ill, chalking it up to a combination of the Chicago weather, air conditioning, and mold.
No reason has been given for the starter change. It could be that Strasburg woke up on Wednesday and felt better. Or maybe it was his teammates that changed his mind. Or perhaps it was the torrent of criticism that came his way in the wake of Baker’s announcement. Because was there ever criticism.
Here’s just a sampling: on Tuesday’s Baseball Tonight on ESPN, former Chicago Cubs catcher (and Dancing with the Stars runner-up) David Ross had some thoughts, and he didn’t hold back.
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) October 11, 2017
Here’s the thrust of what Ross said, boiled down to a few handy sentences.
"As a teammate, it's like rule No. 1. I can't take the ball? It's like, What?"
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) October 11, 2017
Even Wade Boggs was going after Strasburg:
Really can't take the ball in an elimination game because of a runny nose sad. Not in my fox hole! #Cubs Win
— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) October 11, 2017
So Ross and Boggs don’t approve. And while it seems slightly insane that they were advocating for a sick person, who most likely won’t be able to give their best, to take the ball, he’s looking at this from a purely baseball perspective. Strasburg is the Nationals’ best pitcher next to Game 3 starter Max Scherzer, and their season is one loss away from ending. Mark Teixeira, who was standing right next to Ross on Baseball Tonight, echoed those sentiments in a quote via Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post.
“Unless this guy is in the hospital and getting fluids and can’t even go to the ballpark, he’s gotta be on the mound.”
It looks like everyone is getting their wish: sick or not, Strasburg’s got the ball on Wednesday, and the chance to save his team from another disappointing first-round elimination. When he’s well, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game, boasting a 2.52 regular season ERA. And when he faced the Cubs in Game 1 last week, he held them to three hits over seven scoreless innings, striking out 10.
Will Strasburg do it again, and save the Nationals from elimination? And will the offense actually show up this time? Game 4 is already rich with storylines.
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