Let's talk hypothetical match-ups. In a pivotal Game 3 in a 1-1 series, Nationals ace Max Scherzer will be facing off against Jose Quintana, looking to get the Nationals an all-important swing-game win in Chicago. Scherzer wasn't able to start Games 1 or 2, presumably due to a hamstring injury that he suffered at the end of September. This presents a problem for Washington going into the back half of the NLDS series. A problem which is, in a word, inexperience. Of the three dominant pitchers that the Nationals fielded in 2017, only Scherzer has significant playoff time. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg have both pitched in playoff games, with Strasburg's only appearance coming in 2014 in a start against the Giants and Gonzalez getting multiple starts in only one postseason (2012 against the Cardinals). Strasburg and Gonzalez pitched in the first two games of the series, going 1-1. Strasburg took a loss in Game 1 despite an excellent outing. Strasburg threw seven innings, gave up two runs (both of which were unearned), and had 10 strikeouts. The Nationals bats were shut out, and the Cubs ultimately lost 3-0. Gonzalez picked up a no-decision after five innings and three runs allowed (all earned) in Game 2. Washington put up six runs, giving the Nats a 6-3 win. From here on out, however, things get trickier. Scherzer has started 12 postseason games against Strasburg and Gonzalez's combined seven starts (including this year). Scherzer is 4-4 career in the postseason, with a career ERA of 3.74. The bottom line is that he's the only known quantity regarding Nationals starters. Being forced to keep him out the first two games will make it impossible to get him innings in Game 4 and extremely difficult in a prospective Game 5. Strasburg and Gonzalez haven't had to pitch on the stage that it takes to clinch a series, which should be a concern for the Nationals. There's no doubt that Scherzer had to be crated before Game 1 -- his intensity has only increased in recent years -- but it's telling that the Nationals thought his hamstring would hamper him enough to hold him out. Losing Scherzer almost nullifies the home-field advantage that the first two games brought Washington -- the Nationals taking the split makes it feel like things are in their favor with Scherzer getting the ball tonight. However, Dusty Baker undoubtedly would be more comfortable giving Gonzalez the ball on Monday and having Scherzer ready for a possible Game 5.
Max Scherzer hamstring injury thrusts Nationals staff inexperience into spotlight
CBS Sports | Oct 9