The Nationals have released their Wild Card roster, and it’s a fun one. Anticipating a deluge of Brewers relievers — and long innings from their top starters — the Nats have loaded up on bench players at the expense of pitching volume.
Here’s the 25-man unit that will be available this evening to manager Dave Martinez:
- Max Scherzer (probable starter)
- Stephen Strasburg
- Anibal Sanchez
- Daniel Hudson
- Fernando Rodney
- Hunter Strickland
- Tanner Rainey
It has long been supposed that the Nats would stake their season on their trio of high-end starters, and this roster is a bold affirmation of that decision. The club will ride Scherzer as long as he’s his typically dominant self before making its next move. Whether that’ll mean handing off to Strasburg and then Corbin, or vice versa, with or without a reliever interspersed … that all remains to be seen.
By foregoing additional hurlers, the Nationals will not have as many chances to gain situational advantage when they are in the field. They’ll instead trust their best pitchers to get outs no matter the handedness of the opposing batter. That’s a reflection both of the core trio of excellent starters — Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin — and the Nats’ season-long struggles in the relief unit. Doolittle was long the team’s lone reliable hand but ran into late health issues. Hudson has been good since coming over via trade but doesn’t exactly carry dominating peripherals. Martinez will do everything he can to avoid deploying any pitcher other than those five in a high-leverage spot.
It’s a bit of a surprise not to see Wander Suero on this roster. He threw a lot of mostly solid innings this season and has shown the ability to retire both left and right-handed hitters. Perhaps the club only anticipates utilizing Rodney, Strickland, and Rainey if specific match-up situations arise and simply did not see a way that Suero would get in the game.
There’s perhaps some possibility of the Nats being hung out to dry in the pitching department, though that’s not terribly likely and Sanchez provides a ready backstop. The team obviously felt it preferable to ensure that it doesn’t have such an issue arise on the position-player side. With the Brewers expected to run out a dizzying array of arms over the course of the contest, the Nationals have chosen to carry an overstuffed bench. That’ll create opportunities for countering the Milwaukee pitching match-ups and liberally deploying pinch hitters, pinch runners, and/or defensive replacements.