Sherrill, Ibanez, and the unpredictable playoffs

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Count me among those who think that the playoffs involve a lot more luck and random chance than most people would like to believe. An example of the unpredictable, anything-can-happen nature of the postseason was on display last night when George Sherrill came out of the Dodgers’ bullpen to pitch the eighth inning of a 5-4 game.
Sherrill is among the best left-handed relievers in baseball and was absolutely fantastic after joining the Dodgers in a midseason trade, posting a 0.65 ERA in 27.2 innings while holding opponents to a .192 batting average. Overall this season left-handed batters managed to hit a measly .128 with zero homers against Sherrill and he also held lefties to a .190 batting average last year.
So what happened? Well, first Sherrill walked Ryan Howard, a left-handed batter who hit just .207 with a putrid .653 OPS against southpaws this season. And then he walked Jayson Werth, which as ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark pointed out was the first time in Sherrill’s entire career that he’d walked back-to-back hitters leading off an inning that he’d started. But wait, there’s more.
With two men on base Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate, at which point Sherrill served up his first home run to a left-handed hitter since June 14, 2008. Now, to Ibanez’s credit he’s typically done well against left-handed pitching, so his hitting the homer isn’t so shocking. But the entire sequence had to come as a shock to Joe Torre, who’s spent the last few months watching Sherrill give up a grand total of one run in 30 appearances while being basically unhittable against lefties.
So naturally Sherrill walks the first two batters he sees, including a left-handed hitter who struggles mightily against pitchers like him, and then serves up his first homer to a lefty in 17 months. These are the types of things that determine who wins and loses in the playoffs, and there’s just no way to predict them in an environment where losing three or four games to a good team ends your season. It’s an awful lot of fun to watch, though.

Stephen Strasburg unlikely to pitch in the NLDS

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 07:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals walks off the field after an injury in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday that starter Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the NLDS against the Dodgers, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic reports. Strasburg hasn’t pitched since September 7 due to a strained flexor mass.

Strasburg was pitching well before a few poor starts prior to being shut down in August. He currently holds a 3.60 ERA with a 183/44 K/BB ratio in 147 2/3 innings.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in May. This was obviously not how they invisioned his 2016 campaign going.

A.J. Cole fined, suspended five games for throwing at Jung Ho Kang

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Home plate umpire Jordan Baker ejects A.J. Cole #22 of the Washington Nationals in the third inning during the game at PNC Park on September 25, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Nationals starter A.J. Cole has been fined an undisclosed amount and suspended five games by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing at Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang on Sunday, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reports. Cole is appealing his suspension.

Kang faked a tag on Bryce Harper, who was coming into third base on a triple. The fake-out caused Harper to slide awkwardly, injuring his left thumb. The Nationals took exception to this and Cole threw a fastball that ended sailing behind Kang’s back during his next at-bat. Cole was ejected and both benches emptied. There was some yelling and some light pushing and shoving, but nothing beyond that.

Cole will remain active until his appeal is heard, which may allow him to make one more start before the end of the regular season. He’s carrying a 5.09 ERA with a 37/14 K/BB ratio in 35 1/3 innings over seven starts this season.