“Obviously we need a backup catcher,” Manager Dave Martinez said a few hours before Saturday’s Game 4. “So if he’s not able to play for a few days, we’ll need to do something else.”
Max Scherzer is scheduled to start Game 5 for the Nationals on Sunday, and Suzuki has been his personal catcher for most of this season. But even before that, it would be tough to go without a backup catcher for even one game. Yan Gomes will start Saturday night with Patrick Corbin on the mound. If the Nationals made the move to Read, the 36-year-old Suzuki would be done for the season. He will be back with the Nationals in 2020 to play out the end of his two-year contract.
After Friday’s loss, Suzuki stood almost still at his locker in the clubhouse while describing the pitch that led to the injury. It was the sixth inning, and Fernando Rodney was pitching. The reliever was ahead of the Astros’ George Springer, and he wanted to throw a change-up down. But he threw the pitch too low, in the dirt, and with a runner on third, Suzuki dropped to his knees to block it. He felt a muscle in his right hip flexor twinge.
He has at times struggled with the demands of catching this season. He missed most of September with right elbow inflammation. And he knew right away that this injury was serious. He wanted to stay in for the rest of the inning, so he finished the last 10 pitches before walking off, but afterward he talked to Martinez.
Suzuki wanted to hit, but the pain overwhelmed him and he decided he “would be doing a disservice to the team” if he continued. The Nationals pinch-hit Gerardo Parra, and Parra struck out as the Nationals zoomed toward a loss which sliced their World Series lead to 2-1. The team replaced him with Gomes in the seventh.
“It was one of those things where you try to fight through it, but I just wouldn’t — I wouldn’t have been helping the team,” Suzuki said. “So ... ” he trailed off.
The Nationals consider Suzuki an invaluable part of the team. He struggled at the plate this postseason until, in Game 2 of the World Series, he rocketed a home run off Astros starter Justin Verlander that sparked a six-run seventh inning and broke the game open. The struggles returned in Game 3, when he struck out in each of his only two at-bats. But his real value lies in handling the rotation. He’s the personal catcher for Game 3 starter Aníbal Sánchez as well as Scherzer, the team’s ace who raved this season about the catcher’s game-calling ability, and his numbers with Suzuki (99⅔ innings, 2.08 ERA) are much better than with Gomes (72⅔, 4.09).