After the Dodgers accomplished their first goal of winning the National League West, the next goal becomes home-field advantage — in the NLDS, at least, since the Cubs have literally won 100 games and cannot be caught.
The Nationals have been ahead of the Dodgers in league standings virtually all season, but now sit just one game up with each team having six games to play. While it isn’t necessary for either team to have home field, it’s always nice to know that a potential Game 5 is on familiar turf. I mean, look how it benefited the Dodgers last ye … sorry.
A big reason why the Nationals have been limping toward the finish line is injuries. Stephen Strasburg, one of the game’s best pitchers, hasn’t pitched since Sept. 7 when he went down with a strained flexor mass in his pitching elbow. He is a former Tommy John surgery recipient, so this kind of injury isn’t great, as it is at times a precursor to a torn ulnar collateral ligament. His status for the NLDS could be determined today, as Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post writes.
“The chances of Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg pitching in the National League Divisional Series dwindle each day that goes by without him throwing off a mound, but both Manager Dusty Baker and General Manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that they didn’t know Strasburg’s status for the matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which begins with Game 1 on Oct. 7. That could change Tuesday.
‘I can’t answer that question as of today,’ Rizzo said before Washington’s 14-4 loss to the Diamondbacks Monday. ‘I may be able to answer it a little clearer tomorrow to see where he’s at after today and into tomorrow. As the days click on and he hasn’t thrown to hitters yet then it gets further away from him getting on the mound. But we’ll assess today and have more information for you tomorrow.'”
Next, the guy who almost single-handedly took down the Dodgers last October, Daniel Murphy, is out with a strained left buttocks. Nats’ manager Dusty Baker thinks Murphy will be ready for the postseason, but it remains to be seem if he is and how effective he may or may not be. While the Strasburg loss is big, this one might be bigger if the Nats have to go to either Ben Revere in center field (with Trea Turner moving to second base) or Wilmer Difo at second base (with Turner in center). Murphy is having a career-year, hitting .347/.391/.596 with a 156 wRC+. He is a legitimate MVP candidate, and if the Nats don’t have him, that’s going to hurt.
Another blow happened last night when Wilson Ramos went down with a knee injury. It happened when trying to catch an errant throw, and he landed awkwardly and collapsed to the ground. He was helped off the field and couldn’t put weight on the leg. With six days left in the season, it’s never a good time to have an injury, but Ramos has a history of injuries in this leg, including reconstructive surgery. Ramos was, like Murphy, having a career-year: .307/.354/.496 with a 124 wRC+. He is scheduled to have an MRI today, but Washington folks weren’t exactly optimistic about Ramos’ knee.
“Baker said Ramos ‘doesn’t look too good tonight’ and is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Tuesday morning to determine the extent of the injury. In the meantime, the Nationals will turn to rookie Pedro Severino, who replaced Ramos on Monday, and Jose Lobaton for catching duties.”
Update: Bad news for the Nats.
There it is. Wilson Ramos has a torn ACL, Dusty Baker says.
— CSN Nationals (@CSNNationals) September 27, 2016
The drop off from Ramos to Lobaton and/or Severino would seem to be much greater than that of Murphy to Revere or Difo, but Revere has a 49 wRC+ this season and Difo has all of 53 plate appearances. Seeing as the Dodgers will throw Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and Rich Hill in Game 2, odds are Difo would draw starts in those games if Murphy cannot go.
I also must mention Bryce Harper is dealing with a thumb injury, but it isn’t nearly as problematic or serious as the three injuries listed above.
The Dodgers know all about dealing with injuries, as they placed an MLB-record 28 players on the disabled list this season. The Nationals have some depth and still have a lot of quality players, so if any or all of these guys cannot play, it just won’t be an easy series win for the Dodgers. Hell, they still might not even get home-field advantage.
Even with all the injuries, this looks to be a good series. We’ll have a full preview next week, but the Nationals’ injuries could play a large role in what happens for the rest of the season and in the first round of the playoffs.
Ultimately, though, the Dodgers have to win, or none of what the Nats do this week matters in terms of home-field advantage.