(CBS) Game 4 of the National League Division Series being rained out Tuesday provided what looked like a break for the Nationals, who trail 2-1 against the Cubs.
With the contest pushed back to 3:08 p.m. Wednesday, it gave ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg the opportunity to come back on his normal four days rest.
Except that won’t be the case.
The Nationals will start right-hander Tanner Roark as scheduled in Game 4, manager Dusty Baker said at an evening press conference Tuesday after the game had been postponed. The reasoning was multi-faceted and caused confusion as the Nationals publicly attempted to communicate it to media members, while at least one national report emerged that contradicted Baker’s explanations.
Like several of his teammates, Strasburg is ill, Baker said. Baker then offered a curious explanation in which he cited the weather, air conditioning at their hotel and this being the “time of the year for mold around Chicago” for Strasburg and some Nationals being under the weather.
How ill Strasburg is remains anyone’s guess. Strasburg “declined” the Game 4 start because he was “wheezing” during an afternoon run and doesn’t feel prepared to pitch Wednesday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported.
Baker also initially mentioned that illness aside, the routine-oriented Strasburg threw a bullpen session earlier Tuesday and thus his arm wouldn’t be physically prepared to pitch Wednesday. That raised eyebrows, as the Nationals were aware of the forecast and would’ve been short-sighted to tire Strasburg out a day before he could possibly take a start on normal rest.
But later, Nationals officials clarified that Baker misspoke and that Strasburg actually threw his bullpen Monday ahead of Game 3, the Washington Post reported. That led to speculation that Baker was trying to provide further cover for why Strasburg can’t take the ball Wednesday.
The bottom line is Strasburg’s arm is ready, but his health isn’t. He’s unavailable.
So instead of turning to an ace who no-hit the Cubs into the sixth inning in the series opener, the Nationals turn to Roark, who went 13-11 with a 4.67 ERA this season.
“We have full confidence in Tanner,” Baker said.