Sánchez to start NLCS Game 1 for Nats

Suzuki expected to play Friday; Robles' status still uncertain

October 11th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Nationals advanced past the National League Division Series by riding the arms of their starting rotation, in particular their top three -- , and . But the Nationals have as good a No. 4 starter as any team this season, and they feel comfortable sending him to the mound for the first National League Championship Series game in team history.

will take the mound in Game 1 of the NLCS tonight at Busch Stadium, Nationals manager Dave Martinez said on Thursday afternoon as the Nationals prepared to take off from Los Angeles. On Friday, the club announced that Scherzer will get the nod in Game 2 on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, TBS) on regular rest.

Sánchez is not only the most well-rested option for Washington, but he also pitched well in his lone appearance in the NLDS, a start in Game 3. He went five innings, allowed one run on four hits and matched a season high with nine strikeouts. He pitched against the Cardinals once during the regular season, taking a loss way back on April 30 in Washington, when he struck out seven but allowed three runs over five innings.

“Every game is different, every situation is totally different,” Sanchez said during a conference call on Thursday. “The game that I had against the Dodgers, I think I put a really good game plan together with [catcher ], but tomorrow is going to be a different day, different crowd, different team.”

Behind Sanchez and Scherzer, the Nationals have some options of how they want to stack up their rotation. Scherzer was the clear choice to start Game 2 on normal rest after his clutch performance Monday night in Game 4. That assignment lines up Strasburg for a potential Game 3 and Corbin again for Game 4, if the team chooses.

“I got a four-plus hour flight,” Martinez said before heading to St. Louis. “I’m going to sit down and do some work and see where we're at.”

Suzuki should be in lineup for Game 1

The Nationals are feeling optimistic about Suzuki’s status after an errant 94 mph fastball from Walker Buehler deflected off his wrist and hit him in the face, forcing him to leave Game 5 on Wednesday night. X-rays on Suzuki’s hand and wrist came back negative and once the team arrives in St. Louis on Thursday evening, he was expected to undergo concussion protocol.

However, the Nationals feel confident that Suzuki avoided the worst and that he should be ready to catch Sánchez in Game 1.

“I talked to him this morning, [he] says he feels good,” Martinez said. “We'll get him some treatment today and he should be ready to go tomorrow.”

Robles’ status up in air for Game 1

will test out his right hamstring on Friday morning to determine his status for Game 1 of the NLCS. He is expected to be on the series roster.

Robles has not played since straining his hamstring late in Game 2 of the NLDS, although he lobbied to start late in the series against the Dodgers. Martinez decided against it, wanting to exercise caution, especially considering how big a part speed has played in his young center fielder’s game.

Another reason why the Nats haven’t been tempted to test Robles is that his replacement, , has performed well in center field in his absence. Taylor went 4-for-12 in the NLDS and is an excellent defensive center fielder, so the Nationals haven’t felt much of a loss without Robles in the lineup.

“[Taylor’s] been unbelievable,” Martinez said. ‘Since he's come back up, he understands his role. He's been really good at it. I've said this all along: We don't miss anything on defense with Michael out there. And he's putting together some huge at-bats for us. It's kind of nice to see him producing and helping us win. It gives us a little bit more time with [Robles], not trying to rush him [back] and get him [seriously] hurt.”