“That’s kind of the nature of the business. Sometimes you’re going to have to deal with some things that you wouldn’t expect, and bottom line is you still have to go out there and compete.”
He soon will compete against the Dodgers and left-hander Clayton Kershaw. That’s the matchup for Friday for Game 2 of the team’s NL Division Series. Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA) has been Washington’s most consistent pitcher this season. He helped steady the rotation when Max Scherzer missed six weeks with various injuries this summer. He made 33 starts, his most since 2014, and many lobbied for him to start the wild-card game in place of Scherzer.
But Strasburg instead came out of the bullpen to toss three scoreless innings. That came after Scherzer gave up three runs on two homers in the first five innings. That made it possible he could still go in Game 2, having thrown only those 34 pitches in the past nine days, and that’s what the club decided on. This schedule also means Strasburg could be lined up for a potential Game 5 should it be necessary. Martinez admitted that factored heavily into his calculations.
“In my mind I like the way that sets up, yeah. It had a lot to do with it,” Martinez said Thursday afternoon. “The biggest thing was I wanted him to come to me and I wanted him to own it. I wasn’t going to pressure him into doing anything because he’s done a lot for us already. We wouldn’t be here right now. He was a big reason why we are here.”
Martinez added that Strasburg won’t be on any restrictions Friday. The Nationals are pitching him because he feels like he can shoulder a regular workload at 100 percent. He threw 100 or more pitches in 22 of his starts. The postseason is a different beast, and starters don’t usually make it that deep into games, but the point is that he is ready to be unleashed.
The Nationals have not yet decided on a Game 3 starter but Scherzer is the likely choice. The Dodgers have tabbed Hyun-jin Ryu for that contest in Washington on Sunday night. That would line up Aníbal Sánchez for Game 4, and if the series is even, both Strasburg and Game 1 starter Patrick Corbin should be ready for the do-or-die finale. Martinez has given himself as many options as possible by bumping Strasburg up. And that’s all he could ask for at this time of year.
“For me it’s like he threw a side of 34 pitches with intensity,” Martinez said of Strasburg. “That’s the way I looked at it the other day. So he says he feels really good, so he’s ready to go.”