For reasons that are not entirely intellectually honest, the Stephen Strasburg shutdown began looming over this series the moment the Nationals went behind for the first time. That the point is wholly moot when Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, and Jordan Zimmerman were starting playoff games with or without Strasburg in the mix hasn’t seemed to matter. National pundits and controversy mongers are second-guessing the Nationals in real time, removing the seven-second delay in hindsight judgement and opening up both guns on the suddenly beleaguered Nationals.

It hasn’t mattered if Strasburg was pitching until tonight, when his replacement starter, Ross Detwiler, takes the hill with the Nats magical season on the line. In his humble defense, Ross Detwiler pitched quite admirably in Strasburg’s stead.

But he is not Stephen Strasburg. Nobody is. Unless the Nationals come back in this series and roll to the World Series title, the ineffectiveness of Nats starters without their ace will be the dominant narrative until Spring Training starts in February.

Nobody cares about that storyline tonight. Tonight, all anybody in DC wants is for Ross Detwiler to pitch as he can (effectively) and the Nationals offense to roar back to life.

Taming the mighty Cardinals lineup (seriously) is a tough ask for any pitcher, let alone a control lefty with iffy stuff like Detwiler. Hitters like Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday represent tough matchups for Ross Detwiler (who is not alone in this characteristic.)

The Cardinals send their “A” line-up against Detwiler, making good use of Carlos Beltran’s supernatural powers switch-hitting ability.

  1. J. Jay cf
  2. C. Beltran rf
  3. M. Holliday lf
  4. A. Craig 1b
  5. Y. Molina c
  6. D. Freese 3b
  7. D. Descalso 2b
  8. P. Kozma ss
  9. K. Lohse p

Here, via Brooks Baseball, is Lohse’s pitch usage in 2012.

Likewise, the Nationals go with the lineup that brought them to this point. Despite a lack of obvious production, keeping Harper and Werth at the top of the order is the right thing to do. The Nats situational hitting struggles are well-documented this week. Fortunately, situational hitting is still just hitting – getting runners on suggests the Nats are doing a decent job of “hitting.” There timely hits are those which need to come.

  1. J. Werth rf
  2. B. Harper cf
  3. R. Zimmerman 3b
  4. A. LaRoche 1b
  5. M. Morse lf
  6. I. Desmond ss
  7. D. Espinosa 2b
  8. K. Suzuki c
  9. R. Detwiler p

And what we can expect Detwiler to throw by situation (also via Brooks Baseball).

Hit this link for a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers components. Here’s hoping a good game with minimal buntery and managerial interference.

Source: FanGraphs