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Nationals/Cubs

The Nationals failed to capitalize on four Cubs errors and wasted six no-hit innings from Max Scherzer in Game 3, losing a heartbreaker on Anthony Rizzo’s bloop single in the eighth. Now they must win two in a row, including today’s Game 4 at Wrigley Field, to take the series and avoid yet another disappointing first-round exit.

Last night, following the rainout, the Nationals created an avalanche of hot takes by saying that Tanner Roark would remain the Game 4 starter, in large part because Stephen Strasburg was sick (although reports on nearly every other possible detail vary). Well, he either recovered significantly overnight or is simply going to pitch through the illness, because now Strasburg, not Roark, is taking the mound for Washington with the season on the line. You know, because Game 4 didn't have enough drama already.

Entering September, it appeared that Jake Arrieta had turned it around, recovering from a sub par first half to put up a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts in July and August, albeit with a 3.49 FIP. Then he tweaked his hamstring in a September 4 start against the Pirates and quickly went from sure thing to question mark. He has pitched twice since returning from the injury, with mixed results. The Cubs are hoping they get the Grade A version of Arrieta, or at least the version that can keep them in the game for six innings.

Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg) at Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta), 4:08 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 54% Cubs, 46% Nationals

Projected Starting Lineups

Nationals vs. Arrieta (R)

Cubs vs. Strasburg (R)

Trea Turner (R), SS

Jon Jay (L), CF

Jayson Werth (R), LF

Kris Bryant (R), 3B

Bryce Harper (L), RF

Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B

Ryan Zimmerman (R), 1B

Willson Contreras (R), C

Daniel Murphy (L), 2B

Ben Zobrist (S), LF

Anthony Rendon (R), 3B

Addison Russell (R), SS

Matt Wieters (S), C

Jason Heyward (L), RF

Michael Taylor (R), CF

Javier Baez (R), 2B

Stephen Strasburg (R), SP

Jake Arrieta (R), SP

Injuries/Availability

With Washington facing elimination, it could have been (and may still be) an all-hands-on-deck game for Dusty Baker, although it's unclear how many players will be impacted by what is being classified as either a flu bug or hotel mold that Baker says has impacted "a lot of the Nats."

The rainout ensures that both bullpens have full availability, which is good because Arrieta hasn't gone deep in a start since returning from his injury and it's impossible to know what to expect from Strasburg at this point.

For the first time in the series, Baker has decided to change his lineup, shuffling his nos. 2-6 hitters in an attempt to kickstart the offense. Baez returns to the starting lineup after a breather in Game 3, pushing Zobrist back into the outfield. Jason Heyward was initially on the bench in favor of Kyle Schwarber, but once Strasburg was announced Maddon swapped them.

Outlook

There is no way to overstate the stakes for the Nationals. A win brings the series back to Washington for a winner-take-all Game 5. A loss means yet another long winter of wondering what might have been, with the Strasburg situation magnifying the drama even further.

PECOTA favors Chicago in Game 4 (just slightly now, with Strasburg in for Roark), projecting that the Cubs will advance to the NLCS for the third consecutive season, but suffice it to say that a projection system may have a particularly tough time with this game.

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medler312
10/11
And now...Strasburg has the start. By 3:00 CT, Baker will announce Mark Prior as the SP. Fun times.
ajb3313
10/11
I missed it. What were the odds with Roark in there instead of Strasburg?
MikeGianella
10/11
It was 64 percent for the Cubs with Roark