Thursday, October 12th, 2017

NLDS 2017 Game Four: A Strange, Damp Day at Wrigley Field

What a bizarre set of circumstances. Originally scheduled for Tuesday night, heavy rains washed away Game Four of the National League Division Series (NLDS) before first pitch. If the Washington Nationals had designs of extending the NLDS to a full five-game set, they would need to defeat Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53 ERA*) and send the series back to our nation's capital on Thursday.

Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67 ERA*) was slated to pitch for the Nationals on Tuesday night. Following the washout, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was asked if Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 0.00 ERA**) would pitch Game Four with the additional day of rest. After an excuse-filled response that mentioned Chicago's mold season and hotel air-conditioning, Baker stated that Roark would still pitch and that Strasburg was under the weather.

Naturally, Strasburg made the start and fanned 12 Chicago Cubs batters. According to Christopher Kamka, Strasburg's 12 strikeouts were the most in a postseason game played at the Friendly Confines since Howard Ehmke's 13 during Game One of the 1929 World Series against Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.

It had the raw emotion of a do-or-die playoff, but looked like a rain-drenched mid-April game. The damp conditions and heavy winds set the stage for another pitchers duel. When the Nationals plated a run on Addison Russell's fielding error in the top of the third, it appeared that the Cubs simply needed one to tie.

Through seven innings, Washington maintained its 1-0 lead. With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, Michael A. Taylor muscled Wade Davis' (0-0, 4.50 ERA**) pitch into the left field basket for a grand slam.

Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, provided fans with another opportunity to question his quirky bullpen management skills. After four innings, he pulled Arrieta in favor of Game Two starter Jon Lester (0-0, 1.86 ERA**). After pitching 3 2/3 innings, Lester will likely not pitch if needed in the deciding fifth game on Thursday.

Kyle Hendricks (1-0, 0.00 ERA**), who masterfully pitched against Strasburg during Game One, will need to rise to the occasion once more on Thursday. Baker has yet to announce his Game Five starting pitcher. All indications point toward Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 5.40 ERA**), Washington's Game Two starter. Max Scherzer (0-0, 1.42 ERA**), who started Game Three, could make a start on short rest. But he could emerge as a reliever if needed.

*Regular season stats if yet to appear in NLDS
**Postseason stats through Wednesday

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