Nationals set to promote Stephen Strasburg from Double-A to Triple-A

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Stephen Strasburg will make his final Double-A start tomorrow, with a Nationals source telling MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that the 21-year-old phenom will be promoted to Triple-A following the game.
Strasburg has more than earned the promotion by absolutely toying with Double-A hitters, going 3-0 with a 0.52 ERA, .115 opponents’ batting average, and 23/3 K/BB ratio in four starts. He’ll be pitted against a few more veterans in the International League, but as general manager Mike Rizzo admitted earlier this week Triple-A is ultimately little more than a holding pen until the Nationals are ready to call him up.

As he progresses, he’s going to go to [Triple-A] Syracuse and is going to pitch there until we deem he is ready to go to the next level. It’s reasonable to assume he is going to be in Syracuse sometime soon. He is doing everything we thought he would do and more. He seems to get better and better and stronger and stronger each start.

With the Nationals surprisingly above .500 and Strasburg’s service time nearly suppressed long enough to delay free agency, he seems likely to spend just a month or so at Triple-A. He’ll be limited to about 85 pitches in his final Double-A outing tomorrow, so stretching him out to 100-plus pitches at Triple-A will be one of the final steps before the Strasburg era begins in Washington.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.