With just one game on the schedule (no doubleheader!) and the ace taking the hill, Matt Williams played all of his starters on Saturday. All of the regulars played at least five innings as the Nationals jumped ahead early and rolled to a 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins. Stephen Strasburg ran his scoreless streak to 20 innings in the victory.
Strasburg notched seven strikeouts, pushing his season total to a league-leading 242. He'll end up finishing the regular season with a 14-11 record, a 3.14 ERA (2.95 FIP, 2.56 xFIP) and a 1.12 WHIP. Over the past calendar month, Strasburg has gone 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP, and a 40:3 strikeout to walk ratio in 39.2 innings. As Patrick pointed out the other day, Strasburg should be taking the ball in Friday's Game 1 of the NLDS.
In the second half of today's game, we did get to see some guys who are fighting to make the postseason roster, though. As the title of this article indicates, that's who we're going to focus on. First, an updated list of the players that appear to have locked up their spots:
|Ryan Zimmerman||??? Bench||11|
- Situation: Entered the game leading 2-0 in the 7th inning. Marlins had Justin Bour (L), Kike Hernandez (R), and Jordany Valdespin (L) due up
Jerry Blevins over his last five appearances: 5 1/3, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 11 Ks. Faced 18 batters, retired 16 of them. Domination.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) September 27, 2014
Neither Barrett nor Stammen pitched today. Clippard and Storen both pitched Saturday, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see the Nats go in a different direction if there's a late lead on Sunday. Barrett has looked terrific all month. Stammen backed onto the bubble with an extremely poor outing on Friday night. I'll make final calls as to who I think will be there when I post this on Monday. For now, these two guys could both still have a little something to prove.
On The Bubble/Steady
|Steven Souza, Jr.||OF|
As I've done the past few days, the players in bold saw action in today's game. Soriano and Detwiler both pitched in Friday's Game 2. Hairston didn't pinch hit today.
- Situation: Pinch hit for Strasburg in the 6th inning against Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi (R).
- Situation: Pinch hit for Denard Span in the 7th inning against Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi (R). Had a second at bat in the 8th inning against Marlins reliever Anthony Desclafani (R). Went 0 for 2 with a strikeout.
- He didn't have any particularly tough chances in CF.
Let's not focus on results based thinking. Taylor had a great battle with Eovaldi in the 7th. He ran the count full and fouled off the first 3-2 offering before ripping a one hopper that happened to find Adeiny Hechavarria's glove. In his second at bat, Taylor struck out looking at a 2-2 fastball that was about shin high (well below the strike zone). He was 0 for 2 today, but he had two very strong plate appearances.
Analysis: Taylor remains the best option to take over in CF if anything were to happen to Span. Harper or Schierholtz could play CF if necessary, so he isn't the only player on the roster who could fill that role. Taylor is also a potential stolen base threat off the bench. Danny Espinosa is the only other player on the bench that would be an attractive pinch running option.
Steven Souza, Jr.
- Situation: Entered as a defensive replacement for Jayson Werth in the 9th inning. Made a routine play.
|Ryan Zimmerman||??? Bench||11|
It should be interesting to see what the Nats do with the lineup on Sunday. It would be nice to see the fans have one more chance to cheer the starters on in the regular season. With everything wrapped up, it could also be an opportunity for Williams to give some of the players battling for those final spots a little more of an opportunity to change his mind. We'll see what happens.