Bill Ladson

Nats have choices before meeting Dodgers

Injuries create uncertainty for Nos. 3-4 starters, lefty relievers in NLDS

Nats have choices before meeting Dodgers

PITTSBURGH -- The Nationals won their third National League East title by a comfortable margin. They now head into the postseason, where they'll open against the Dodgers, who clinched the NL West Sunday, in the NL Division Series.

L.A. is a team that gave Washington fits during the regular season, winning five out of the six meetings. Infielder Justin Turner proved to be a serious problem at Nationals Park, going 5-for-12 with two home runs and five RBIs.

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Game 1 of the NLDS is scheduled for Oct. 7, on Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network. If the season ended Tuesday, the Nationals would have home-field advantage because they have a better overall record than the Dodgers, who trail the Nats by 1 game. If Washington and L.A. end the regular season with the same record, the Dodgers would have home-field advantage because they won the season series.

Even though the Nationals celebrated after beating the Pirates, 6-1, on Saturday night, they still have some concerns entering the postseason. Health is an issue. They received bad news Tuesday when it was revealed that Wilson Ramos will miss the entire postseason because of a torn ACL, which he injured against the D-backs on Monday. Jose Lobaton or Pedro Severino will likely split time behind the plate.

General manager Mike Rizzo announced that Stephen Strasburg will miss the NLDS after straining the flexor mass in his right arm against the Braves on Sept. 7. The only thing Strasburg has done since then is play catch on flat ground, and it's not like he is throwing the ball hard.

"Who would be our third and fourth starter, especially if we don't have Stras. That's probably the biggest concern," Baker said. "I sure would love to go out there with the big three [Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark]. But somebody has to step up. We'll see."

If Strasburg is not ready, the team may go with Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross as the third and fourth starters, respectively. Gonzalez has been shaky for most of the season, while Ross recently recovered from shoulder issues and lasted just 2 2/3 innings in Saturday's win.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy has been shut down because of a strain in his buttocks. Manager Dusty Baker isn't sure about his status in the postseason.

"I'm not a doctor. I don't know," Baker said Friday. "[The trainers] are doing everything they can to try to alleviate the pain and get rid of whatever is in there. We have a capable [training] staff here. I'm glad he didn't do it any worse."

Health isn't the only thing Baker is thinking about. He has to figure out the lefties in the bullpen. Marc Rzepczynski is a given, but Baker is hoping to include Sammy Solis because he can get left-handed and right-handed hitters out. Baker reported Friday that Solis had another bullpen session and looked great. Solis hasn't pitched since Aug. 15 because of shoulder inflammation. Oliver Perez or Sean Burnett could be added on as a third lefty reliever.

Chris Heisey is going to be one of the extra outfielders, but Baker has to decide among Ben Revere, Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin. Revere and Taylor have been disappointments at the plate. Revere is still dealing with oblique issues, while Taylor has problems hitting the breaking ball.

Recently, Baker said he hasn't ruled out having Goodwin on the roster. Since his callup this summer, Goodwin has been productive as a pinch-hitter and has had quality at-bats against a pitcher such as the late Jose Fernandez.

"I'm impressed with him big time," Baker said of Goodwin. "He had some big at-bats against some quality guys. He is probably one of the most improved players I've seen since Spring Training. He studies, he is a quick learner and he rises to the occasion."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.