Nats host D-backs in expected soggy finale

BY foxsports • September 29, 2016

WASHINGTON -- Rain is in the forecast on Thursday afternoon as the Washington Nationals are slated to host the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of the four-game series.

If the game is not played there is always a chance Arizona would have to return to Washington and play Monday if the game has a bearing on who gets the homefield edge in the playoffs between the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS that begins October 7.

Washington, which lost 3-0 on Wednesday in a game called due to rain in the sixth, was two games ahead of the Dodgers going into play Wednesday. The Dodgers hold the edge in the tiebreaker since they went 5-1 against Washington in regular-season play.

Arizona is slated to end regular-season play at home this weekend against the San Diego Padres.

"It would be interesting," Arizona manager Chip Hale said of a possible return trip to Washington. "We would all have to come back. That's right. Even Phil Nevin our Triple-A manager's already said it wasn't in his contract. So he has to come back too. It would be really interesting."

A pair of young pitchers drafted by the Nationals are slated to start Thursday.

Washington right-hander Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48) will face off against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray (8-14, 4.77), a former minor leaguer with Washington.

Ray was a 12th-round pick by the Nationals in 2010 out of a high school in Tennessee. He was part of the package that Washington traded to Detroit before the 2014 season as the Nationals acquired veteran right-hander Doug Fister. Ray made his MLB debut with the Tigers in 2014.

In his last start on Saturday in Baltimore he was charged with the loss as he went just 3 2/3 innings and gave up six hits and four runs with four walks and five strikeouts.

Ray started at home against Washington on August 2 and was charged with the loss as he gave up eight hits and six runs (five earned) in six innings.

Chris Heisey of the Nationals has the most at-bats against Ray of any Washington hitter and is 2-for-8 against him with a homer. Daniel Murphy is 2-for-5 against Ray and Wimer Difo is 2-for-3.

Ross went on the disabled list July 3 with right shoulder inflammation and did not pitch in the series at Arizona in early August. Ross has never faced Arizona.

He pitched on July 2 against the Cincinnati Reds and then did not pitch again until Sept. 18 at Atlanta, when he went just three innings.

In his last start, on Saturday in Pittsburgh, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings as he gave up five hits and one run with one walk and four strikeouts. But the Nationals got a strong outing from Reynaldo Lopez in that game and with a win clinched the National League East title.

Ross could be in line to make a postseason start against the Dodgers, perhaps Game 4.

Gio Gonzalez, the loser on Wednesday, could face the Dodgers in game 3 since they have so many lefty hitters. But Gonzalez did not get out of the fourth Wednesday and has not gone more than five innings in his last three starts.

Game 3 is on Oct. 10. Can a long layoff help Gonzalez, whose friend Jose Fernandez died on Sunday?

"It can," said manager Dusty Baker. "Just depends on, not only can it reset him, but after things have subsided some... they say time heals all wounds, but some wounds take longer to heal. Probably won't really set in until after the season when he's back in Miami and around and Jose's not around. Hopefully, he can have a couple good 'pens and get it back together because we're certainly going to need him come playoff time."