Manager Dave Martinez confirmed Kurt Suzuki’s status after the Nationals’ 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night. Martinez told The Post that Suzuki passed his final impact test before the contest and could have been available to pinch-hit or catch in an emergency. He added that, with a night-to-afternoon turnaround, he always wanted Yan Gomes to catch one of the first two games of the series. Game 1 made even more sense since the Cardinals were likely to attempt a lot of steals against starter Aníbal Sánchez. Sánchez is slow to the plate and Suzuki allowed 45 of 50 base runners to steal second against him this season. Sánchez, though, was paired with Suzuki for all but two starts this year and worked with him 16 times in 2018 while with the Atlanta Braves.
But Martinez inserted Gomes to control the running game and give Suzuki an extra day of rest. The decision worked on all fronts: Sánchez threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings, and came four outs away from a no-hitter, while firing at Gomes’s mitt. Gomes also added two hits and drove in one of the Nationals’ runs. Washington’s catchers were 1-for-18 with seven strikeouts heading into the NLCS.
“Huge, it was huge,” Martinez said of Gomes’s Game 1 performance. “They had a great game plan together. He very seldom caught Sánchez this year but he was unbelievable today, really was.”
Suzuki, on the other hand, is 0-for-12 with three strikeouts and three walks so far in the postseason. He has also grounded into three double plays. He underwent X-rays on his left hand following the hit by pitch in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. They came back negative and, after that, Martinez wanted him to get checked out for a possible concussion. That process led to a final round of evaluations by team doctors on Friday. They revealed that he caught a break and avoided damage to his wrist or head. It came by a matter of centimeters. The pitch ricocheted off Suzuki’s wrist before connecting with his forehead. The blow was softened by the flap of his batting helmet.
The two catchers platooned this season, with Gomes getting 90 starts to Suzuki’s 70 behind the plate. But Suzuki emerged as the preferred catcher for Scherzer, Sánchez and, at times, Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer had a 2.08 ERA in 99 2/3 innings with Suzuki during the season. He had a 4.09 ERA in 77 2/3 innings with Gomes. Suzuki offered more offensive upside while Gomes struggled during long slumps. He will likely hit sixth or seventh in Saturday’s lineup depending on who starts at first and second base.
The Nationals are in control of the series after winning without Suzuki, centerfielder Victor Robles and closer Daniel Hudson, who missed the game following the birth of his third daughter on Friday morning. Now they are getting back to full strength at the perfect time. Robles’s strained hamstring is healing, Hudson will return for Game 2 and, despite a scare, their top catcher will be back on the field.