Dusty pulls fast one; Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg in Game 4

Dusty Baker tried to pull the wool over the Cubs’ eyes Tuesday.

Many speculated that if Game 4 of the NLDS was postponed to the next day, the Nationals would likely start red-hot Stephen Strasburg, who started Game 1 of the series last week and would have regular rest.

Baker was adamant Tuesday that he was sticking with Tanner Roark as his starting pitcher in the Nationals must-win makeup game Wednesday instead of Strasburg. The Nationals manager said that Strasburg and some of his teammates were feeling under the weather and blamed Chicago’s mold and their hotel’s air conditioning.

But the sun rose on a new day and Strasburg apparently felt a lot better — good enough to take over the starting role from Roark.

Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Game 4 of the NLDS. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

“This morning he felt much more like Stephen Strasburg. [He] came into the manager’s office and said he wanted to start this game,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We felt like that Stephen Strasburg gave us a much better chance of winning this game.”

And that he does.

Strasburg was dominant in his last six starts of the regular season. He finished 5-0 with a .650 ERA, striking out 48 batters.

And when he faced the Cubs on Friday, it didn’t seem Strasburg was losing any momentum. The right-hander allowed only three hits in seven innings, while fanning 10 batters and only walking one.

This could be a game changer. But Cubs centerfielder Jon Jay said the team’s mentality stays the same no matter who is starting.

“We look at it like another game,” Jay said. “We know what happened last time against him, but we have to be ready to play.”

Joe Maddon also said he had an inkling Tuesday night as he was leaving the ballpark that Strasburg might start.

“It was purely hunch. It’s something you think could happen if Strasburg was in fact ill, and I believe that,” Maddon said.

“It really doesn’t matter because we’re prepared for everything. This time of year you try to control the controllables.”

Maddon updated his lineup Wednesday after finding out that Strasburg was in fact starting.

Kyle Schwarber, who committed a double error in left field that could have been costly in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory in Game 3 on Monday, is now the odd man out in the Cubs Game 4 lineup. Maddon replaced Schwarber with Jason Heyward, and Ben Zobrist was moved to left field.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, will be taking the mound against Strasburg.

Pressure could also be on Arrieta as this appears that this could be his final start as a Cub should the team fail to advance in the series. The Cubs, however are looking to put the hammer down on the Nationals, who have lost in the NLDS in 2012, 2014 and 2016. A win tonight would propel the Cubs into the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Arrieta is 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA since the Cubs acquired him from the Orioles in 2013. Arrieta hasn’t been very good against the Nationals, though, with 1-2 record and 5.48 ERA in nine career starts against Washington. Arrieta is 4-2 with a 3.64 ERA in seven postseason starts in his career.

Here is the Cubs lineup:
Jon Jay CF
Kris Bryant 3B
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Willson Contreras C
Ben Zobrist LF
Addison Russell SS
Jason Heyward RF
Javy Baez 2B
Jake Arrieta P

Here is the Nationals lineups: 
Trea Turner SS
Jayson Werth LF
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Wieters C
Michael Taylor CF
Stephen Strasburg P

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Here’s what else you need to know: 

  • First pitch: 3:08 p.m.
  • Location: Wrigley Field
  • TV: TBS
  • Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling
  • Radio: 670-AM (Pat Hughes, Ron Coomer), 1000-AM (Dave Flemming, Jessica Mendoza)
  • Pre-Game Show: 4 p.m. on TBS (Casey Stern, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield & Jimmy Rollins), NBCSCH (David Kaplan, David DeJesus, Ryan Dempster)