Clues to Nats’ postseason rotation

Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

Okay, Nationals manager Davey Johnson gave us a peek today at his starting rotation next week. That lets us figure out what he’s thinking when the playoffs start early next month.

This is with the caveat that Washington has to finish off the National League East. It currently holds a 5 ½ game lead over the Atlanta Braves with 13 games left. Johnson announced on Friday afternoon that Jordan Zimmermann will start this Monday (Sept. 24) in the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers.

John Lannan, a lefty, will then begin the three-game series in Philadelphia on Tuesday (Sept. 25). Ross Detwiler, another lefty, goes on Wednesday (Sept. 26). Johnson then said he would likely push Edwin Jackson’s next start back. That’s okay because Gio Gonzalez – yes, yet another lefty – would finish the Philadelphia series on Thursday (Sept. 27)

In that case, Jackson’s next outing would be Sept. 28 in St. Louis (Friday). Zimmermann would then be on normal rest on Sept. 29 (Saturday) with Lannan on Sept. 30 (Sunday) to finish the St. Louis series. Schedule Detwiler on Oct. 1 (Monday) vs. Philadelphia at home and Gonzalez on Oct. 2 (Tuesday). Jackson would pitch the regular-season finale on Oct. 3 (Wednesday). That’s two more lefties vs. Philly.

Why is all that important? Because the Nats – if they hold on to win the N.L. East – will open the postseason on either Oct. 6 (Saturday) if they finish with the N.L.’s second-best record or Oct. 7 (Sunday) if they finish atop the league standings. Zimmermann would be set to open Game 1 of the NLDS on the road – albeit with a week off between starts.

Gonzalez could then take Game 2 of the NLDS on either four days’ rest (Sunday Oct. 7) or five days’ rest – depending when Washington’s series begins. A day off and then Detwiler could go Oct. 10 (Wednesday) in Game 3. If necessary, Jackson could start Game 4 on Oct. 11 (Thursday) with Zimmermann returning for Game 5 of the NLDS on Oct. 12 (Friday). Obviously, a quick series win changes the equation for the NLCS. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

Johnson’s maneuvering gives him better matchups during the final three regular-season series – lefties against a lefty-heavy Phillies lineup, righties against St. Louis. The only caveat here is Johnson didn’t say when exactly Jackson would start next after he pitches tonight against Milwaukee. But unless he wants to give Chien-Ming Wang another go – maybe that’s possible if the Nats have clinched both the division and home-field advantage – Jackson really has to start that day. This is all subject to change, of course. Just reading the tea leaves after his announcement today.

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