Baker stays with Roark instead of switching to ace Strasburg
The showers came a little late, but the rain that soaked Wrigley Field and washed out Game 4 of the NL Division Series followed Tuesday’s forecast pretty closely.
Instead, Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker delivered the biggest surprise of the day.
Baker announced after the rainout that he will stay with Tanner Roark for today’s must-win game against the Chicago Cubs instead of giving the ball to ace Stephen Strasburg on regular rest. Jake Arrieta pitches for the Cubs in his return from a right hamstring injury.
Strasburg threw a bullpen session earlier in the day, according to Baker, and the manager also said there is an illness going around the team, which he attributed to the weather, air conditioning at their hotel and Wrigley, and the “time of the year for mold around Chicago.”
“We decided to stay with Tanner because, No. 1, you know, he was slated,” Baker said. “Didn’t work out for Stras for his bullpen day, and we’re all creatures of habit, and plus, we’ve got full confidence in Tanner. And Stras, it would have been better, because he’s feeling under the weather, like a lot of my team is.”
The Cubs and Nationals took batting practice and the grounds crew got the field ready before bringing out the tarp. The rain started to fall about a half-hour after the game was supposed to start. With more showers in the forecast, Major League Baseball then called it off.
Chicago leads 2-1 in the best-of-five series going into Game 4, now scheduled for today at 4:08 p.m. There is rain in the forecast for early in the day.
“Everybody was pretty much on the same page on this one,” MLB executive Joe Torre said. “You know, we all felt it wasn’t going to be enough playing time without rain.”
If the Nationals win Wednesday, Game 5 would be Thursday night in Washington. The winner of the NLDS takes on the Dodgers in the next round, scheduled to begin Saturday in Los Angeles.
Chicago won 2-1 at home Monday.
Arrieta has pitched just 101/3 innings since Aug. 30. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner got hurt during a loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 4. He returned late last month and made a couple starts down the stretch, but lasted just three innings in a loss at St. Louis on Sept. 26.
The Cubs skipped Arrieta’s last turn in the rotation in the regular season and then pushed him back to Game 4 for the playoffs, giving the right-hander ample time to rest.
“Jake’s really primed for this opportunity,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s done a great job of rehabbing his leg. He feels very good arm- and leg-wise right now. I’m real eager to watch him play.”
The 31-year-old Arrieta was a key factor in Chicago’s turnaround in the last part of the season, going 6-3 with a 2.28 ERA in his final 12 outings. Arrieta, who is eligible for free agency after the season, could be making his last start in a Cubs uniform.
“These next few days are going to be extremely special, and if we’re fortunate enough to get past these guys, like I feel we are, I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy the last few weeks,” Arrieta said Monday.
Roark is from Wilmington, Illinois, about 60 miles south of Chicago, and grew up rooting for the Cubs. Baker praised Roark’s “warrior mentality” on Monday, but the decision to go with the righty over Strasburg and the circumstances surrounding the move likely will be hotly debated ahead of Game 4.
With Max Scherzer nursing his own right hamstring injury, Strasburg started the series opener on Friday and turned in a dominant performance. The right-hander was working on a no-hitter before Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hit consecutive RBI singles with two outs in the sixth inning.
Strasburg struck out 10 in seven innings and was charged with two unearned runs and three hits in Washington’s 3-0 loss. Going back to the regular season, he is 5-2 with a microscopic 0.74 ERA and 73 Ks in 602/3 innings over his last nine starts.
Baker said Strasburg will start Game 5 if the series goes that far.
“It’s fine,” said Baker, who left open the possibility of going with Strasburg when he talked to reporters before the game.
“We have full confidence in Tanner.”
The rainout also meant the Nationals had to switch hotels.
The biggest winner of the day was the Dodgers, who eliminated Arizona with a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of their NLDS on Monday night.
If the NLDS between the Nationals and Cubs goes the distance, the survivor will have to play four times in five days.