‘Dream’ setting for Strasburg
WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg’s 2012 shutdown is a distant memory by now.
This sort of setting and stakes — Game 5 against the Dodgers, with the outcome of the NL Division Series on the line — is exactly why the Nationals protected the pitcher they drafted No. 1 overall all those years ago.
Strasburg will get the ball for the visiting wild-card Nationals, and Walker Buehler will be on the mound for league-best the NL West champion Dodgers on Wednesday night.
“Better to be at home than on the road in Game 5,” Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger said.
The Dodgers are trying to reach the NL Championship Series for the fourth consecutive year, while the Nationals have never won a playoff series since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.
“We’ve got their big horse against one of our horses,” Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said.
Each starter already had a fantastic outing to earn a win in the series: Buehler gave up just one hit while tossing six scoreless innings in Game 1; Strasburg struck out 10 and allowed one run in six innings in Game 2.
That lowered Strasburg’s postseason ERA to 0.64, the lowest for anyone with at least four career starts.
“It’s something that you train for, you dream about as a kid,” he said, “and you want to have those opportunities to just see how your stuff stacks up.”
It’s the sort of production the Nationals were envisioning when GM Mike Rizzo held the righty out of the playoffs seven seasons ago, a year after Strasburg had Tommy John surgery. Buehler will be making his sixth postseason start; he’s 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA. Last year, he appeared in one game in the NLDS, two in the NLCS and one in the World Series, where the Dodgers lost to the Red Sox.
“Something I’m familiar with,” he said of the pressure of the playoffs, “and getting to do it at home certainly helps.”