“To the question of now versus all those guys healthy, yeah, I do,” Roberts said. “But you still got to play the game. Regardless, I feel good about where we’re at. If we’re playing our type of baseball, I think we can beat anybody. But yeah, I think we’re catching them at the right time.”
The Nationals have been mum about the specifics of injuries to Harper, who has played through a hurt right shoulder to some degree for much of the season and, recently, a banged-up left thumb suffered on a slide into third base against the Pirates.
“They’ve been very undercover about things,” Roberts said. “I do know there’s something with his thumb and the incident in Pittsburgh and there was something with the shoulder. I don’t know much how much it’s affecting his throwing, how much the thumb affects his swing. But I think for us as far as preparation, we expect to see the best Harper, and we’ll see what happens.”
Harper’s arm strength and accuracy on throws from right field have appeared compromised at times during the season’s final stretch. The Dodgers — not typically a team built on speed or bold base running — are readily aware and could test Harper on throws to third base and home.
“We’ve talked about where his arm is,” Roberts said. “But when he’s right, he’s got a plus arm. I really can’t speak to the recent accuracy, but if the situation calls for it I know we’ll be aggressive. But knowing he’s got such a good arm and can be accurate, you’re still taking a chance.”
Roberts suggested the Dodgers have healthy respect for rookie catcher Pedro Severino, who will likely see a lot of time replacing Ramos owing to Jose Lobaton’s struggles against left-handed pitching. The Dodgers steal few bases, anyway, and Severino’s presence will not make them any more likely to run.
“We know we’ve got a plus arm, and he’s athletic,” Roberts said. “Don’t know, obviously, as much about him as [Lobaton]. Just obviously like the skill set. Our advance guys have done some things on him. We’ll be prepared. But obviously the more you know about a player, the more you can dig into him. I don’t know to whose advantage that’s going to be.”
Across baseball, the most frequent subject of conversation has been Orioles Manager Buck Showalter’s decision not to pitch star closer Zach Britton in Tuesday’s American League wild-card playoff. Roberts indicated he would use overpowering closer Kenley Jansen with a tie score in the ninth inning, unlike Showalter with Britton.
“Obviously, Buck had his reasons,” Roberts said. “But for me, I could see him being out there, yeah.”
Roberts watched the game and expected Showalter was going to insert Britton in the ninth — and then the 10th, and then the 11th.
“You look 24 hours prior, and if you had a list of the managers who managed the ’pen the best, he would be on a lot of people’s list as top three,” Roberts said. “One game passes, and he somehow finds his way to the bottom. He obviously has his reasons, and I’ve got a ton of respect for him. It’s interesting to see how the narrative has changed.”
The Nationals may see a lot of Jansen if the Dodgers have late leads. Roberts has used Jansen for more than three outs throughout the season, in large part to prepare him for a similar load in the playoffs.
“That’s certainly something we’ve talked about, and I know Kenley is open to whatever is best for the team,” Roberts said. “Depending on the game situation, in postseasons, managers are typically a little more aggressive. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to use him in one-plus situations all year, so there’s some familiarity.”