Nats to stick with Roark over Strasburg for G4

Club stays with original plan after Tuesday's postponement

CHICAGO -- The Nationals are sticking with Tanner Roark as their starter for Game 4 of the National League Division Series, presented by T-Mobile, against the Cubs even after Tuesday's game was postponed due to rain and rescheduled for today. That extra day meant Washington could have started Stephen Strasburg on normal rest with its season on the line as the Nats trail the NLDS two games to one.

However, the Nationals said Strasburg has been under the weather and his endurance is low, so given the circumstances, the team felt Roark gave it the best chance to win Game 4.

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Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CHC 3, WSH 0 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 7 WSH 6, CHC 3 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 9 CHC 2, WSH 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 11 WSH 5, CHC 0 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 12 CHC 9, WSH 8 WATCH

There was some miscommunication about when Strasburg threw his bullpen session in preparation of his next start. Initially, manager Dusty Baker said Strasburg threw Tuesday, anticipating to start Game 5. However, the club later clarified that Strasburg threw Monday and he is not starting Game 4 because of his illness.

According to a USA Today report, Strasburg tested his availability with a run Tuesday, but felt he wouldn't be ready to start today.

"We're all creatures of habit, and plus, we've got full confidence in Tanner," Baker said. "Stras ... because he's feeling under the weather, like a lot of my team is ... so this day actually comes as a plus for our team."

Tuesday's rainout could have been a huge plus for the Nationals, presented with a chance to throw the pitcher on perhaps the best streak in baseball right now to save their season. Strasburg posted a 0.86 ERA after the All-Star break, the lowest by a starter in the Majors. He was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for September. He dominated the Cubs in Game 1, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning en route to seven innings without allowing an earned run and 10 strikeouts.

With a win in Game 4 behind Strasburg, the Nats could have had a winner-take-all Game 5 in Washington with Gio Gonzalez on the mound and Max Scherzer willing to come out of the bullpen. Instead, Strasburg will remain in line for Game 5 if the Nationals can force one with a victory Wednesday.

Baker on Strasburg in Game 4

So the Nationals' hopes will hinge on Roark, who had an improved second half (3.90 ERA) following a rough first half (5.27 ERA), against Jake Arrieta of the Cubs.

"We have full confidence in Tanner," Baker said.

Although Roark's numbers took a dip this season, he's just one year removed from a stellar 2016 campaign in which he finished 10th in NL Cy Young Award balloting. He won a career-best 16 games that season, posting a 2.83 ERA through 210 innings.

The 31-year-old right-hander isn't ordinarily fazed by the increased spotlight that comes along with starting a postseason elimination game. He also has previous playoff experience; he made two relief appearances in the 2014 NLDS vs. the Giants and started Game 2 of last year's NLDS vs. the Dodgers.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.