I spent all morning talking about who should get the starting pitching nods for Game 4 between the Dodgers and the Nationals. Now we have an actual answer: Joe Ross of the Nats will face off against Clayton Kershaw.
With Kershaw, Dave Roberts is obviously thinking “go with my big guy today and worry about Game 5 on Thursday.” He’s also likely in receipt of a good report from Kershaw about how his back feels. The hope for the Dodgers is that Kershaw can go deep into this game, the back end of the bullpen can finish it off in one or two innings, and then Julio Urias and Rich Hill can tag-team Game 5 with whatever arm isn’t dead come Thursday. If Kershaw it knocked out quickly today, well, maybe all is lost anyway. Or maybe Urias can tag-team with him. That would make Game 5 a REAL mess, but that’s where we are.
As for the Nats, Max Scherzer is waiting for Game 5 regardless. Today it’s Ross, who is certainly well rested as he hasn’t appeared in a game since September 29. He was strong down the stretch after returning from a shoulder injury. The only question is whether he can handle the Dodgers’ left-handed bats (and the right-handed bats which struggle against lefties). If he can’t, Dusty Baker still has some lefties to go to in his pen.
Kershaw or no, the Nats are still pretty firmly in the drivers’ seat.
Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.
The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.
The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.
In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.