Will the Nationals’ three days off before NLDS help or hurt?

October 6, 2012

Jeff Roberson / AP

One consequence of MLB’s new playoff format is the difference in schedule between the top seed and the wild card. The Nationals had a day off and then practiced twice. The Cardinals took one day off, played a game, and then worked out today.

The three-day break could be taken one of two ways. The Nationals, especially their pitchers, received a chance to rest up  after a 162-game meat-grinder of a season. Or, they gathered rust while their opponent stayed fresh.

Within the Nationals clubhouse, two veterans took different stances. Ryan Zimmerman, set to begin the first postseason of his seven-year career, thought the rest would help.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Zimmerman, beaming at the very thought. “After going through the season, everyone has their bumps and bruises. There’s no one in Major League Baseball that’s played 150 or however many games doesn’t have something.

“It gives you a chance to kind of heal up a little bit, but it’s not too long to where you kind of get out of game mode. Being able to work out two out of three days is good, too. It’s nice. You get to relax, kind of settle down, realize what you have to do, then regroup and get ready to go.”

In other corner stood Adam LaRoche. He believed the three days without facing a live pitcher would pose a challenge.

“I don’t like it,” LaRoche said. “You come in, you get some BP. But not seeing live pitching for a few days, it’s obviously the way it has to be with the schedule. But I would prefer one off day, and go get it.”

As the opinions of Zimmerman and LaRoche show, the three-day break may affect individual players differently. How the Nationals come out of the blocks – slugging or firing on all cylinders – may be because of how well they handle the time off.

Adam Kilgore covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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