After Wednesday’s game, Manager Dave Martinez and General Manager Mike Rizzo said they were not sure of Suzuki’s status for the NLCS. Suzuki walked through the clubhouse in the bedlam but held his left wrist and looked as though he didn’t want to move it. He joined in the celebration nonetheless.
The Nationals hope to have Suzuki available as early as possible in the NLCS along with Victor Robles, the rookie center fielder who hasn’t played since he left in the eighth inning of Game 2 with a mild right hamstring strain. Martinez said Robles was available to pinch hit in the final three games of the NLDS, but he did not and it prompted questions of whether he might be ready in two days.
The Nationals rely on Suzuki and Robles for stellar defense, and the pitching staff prizes Suzuki behind the plate because of his game-calling ability. The 36-year-old almost exclusively catches team ace Max Scherzer and fourth starter Aníbal Sánchez, as well as other starters occasionally. Suzuki was behind the plate for Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday night and, though the veteran right-hander allowed three runs on two home runs in the first two innings, he settled in and departed with a line that kept his team in the game: six innings, six hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, three runs.
This ability to handle the pitchers compensated for a lacking series from the Nationals’ catching tandem. Yan Gomes and Suzuki, acquired last offseason by Rizzo to form a platoon that played like one all-star, struggled to live up to the hype this season. In the postseason, Gomes and Suzuki have combined to go 0 for 17 with seven strikeouts, three walks and one hit-by-pitch. Suzuki is a defensive liability because of his arm — he threw out five of 50 would-be base-stealers this season — but the Nationals thought he added enough value to stick with him. Suzuki missed three weeks in September due to right elbow inflammation and, at one point, joked it didn’t matter if his arm hurt, because he couldn’t throw anyone out anyway. Dodgers superstar Cody Bellinger stole two bases in Game 5 but scored on neither as Strasburg pitched around them.
Suzuki as Sánchez’s personal catcher is particularly notable because Sánchez might be their Game 1 starter on Friday. The Nationals were concerned about Suzuki on Wednesday, but they had also just toppled a juggernaut. They celebrated and wouldn’t have to think about such combinations until the morning.