A rainout pushed yesterday’s scheduled NLDS Game 4 to today, and as we now know, that game won’t be started by Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, despite the fact that he would be pitching on regular rest. Why exactly this is the case keeps getting more and more confusing.
At a press conference yesterday, Nationals manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Strasburg wouldn’t be able to start today because he had thrown a full bullpen session on Tuesday, but it was later revealed that Strasburg had actually thrown his bullpen on Monday, and thus shouldn’t be too fatigued to start today. Now, based on a new report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, it appears that Baker didn’t just get his days of the week mixed up, he might have been trying to cover for Strasburg.
Nightengale reports that the Nationals did in fact want to start Strasburg today, but that the ace asked to be skipped because he didn’t feel well:
The Nationals were all set to pitch him Wednesday in Game 4 at 4:08 p.m. ET (TBS) at Wrigley Field, trailing 2-1 to the Chicago Cubs, only for Strasburg to decline.
He told them he’s under the weather.
He informed the Nationals’ staff that he ran a half-mile Tuesday afternoon, was wheezing during his run and simply isn’t prepared to start Wednesday, even though he’d be on regular rest, according to a person with direct knowledge of the Nationals’ pitching plans.
Baker hinted at something like this yesterday, mentioning that they Nationals had mold(??) in their hotel and that a few players were under the weather. Still, he fucked up. If he’d just told reporters yesterday that Strasburg is very sick and thus can’t pitch today, nobody would have questioned it. But the whole song and dance about when Strasburg did or did not throw a bullpen makes it look like Baker was trying to keep Strasburg’s real reason for not starting a secret because it was somehow invalid. And now with Nightengale’s report, it won’t be hard at all for ungenerous fans to conclude that the Nationals have been betrayed by their star pitcher, who is in fact a weak baby with no grit.
Of course, this only reaches full D.C. Sports Meltdown status if the Nationals lose tonight and get eliminated from the playoffs. Tanner Roark will start the game, and he’s, well, he’s not Stephen Strasburg, which greatly increases the likelihood that the Nats will be playing their last game of the season today. If that happens, is anyone going to blame the series loss on just how badly the Nats’ offense squandered a gorgeous Strasburg start in Game 1? Nah, we’ll be in for a winter of hearing about how Stephen Strasburg is a fragile flower who let his team down when it needed him most.