The Nationals are clearly cursed by both gods and men. Trailing the Cubs, two games to one, in their best-of-five NLDS matchup, they were given a break from the literal heavens on Tuesday: a rainout of that night’s scheduled Game 4 in Chicago, which bumped the contest to Wednesday afternoon. That postponement couldn’t have been better timed or planned, as it bought an opportunity for ace Stephen Strasburg—who pitched Game 1 on Friday and was thus ruled out for a Game 4 start because it would have come on three days’ rest—to take the mound for the potential elimination game instead of fourth starter Tanner Roark. But the universe, apparently seeking balance after this unexpected gift, found a way to get even.
This is probably what should be expected for a franchise that has a postseason history like something out of a Greek tragedy. Offered the chance to roll out their ace with the season on the line, the Nationals won’t be able to do so because Strasburg—along with other members of the team—has fallen ill. And what’s to blame for that sudden bout of sickness? Baker cited the weather in Chicago, the air conditioning in the team hotel, and, randomly, mold. So thanks to compromised immune systems, a thermostat set too low and some aggressive fungal spores, it’ll be Roark facing former NL Cy Young Jake Arrieta in a do-or-die game.
Regardless, there’s nothing the Nationals can do. Strasburg will start Game 5, assuming his health improves, and Roark will have to keep the Nationals alive long enough to get there. But even if Washington wins to stay alive, its luck won’t improve: Because of the rainout, the team’s previously scheduled day off between Games 4 and 5 is gone, dealing a big blow to a bullpen that will likely be leaned on heavily on Wednesday but won’t be able to get any rest before the series finale. (This is something that the Cubs will also have to manage, but given that they only need to win once to move on, their situation is a little more favorable.)
But there’s no time for the Nationals to focus on everything that’s gone wrong—on how they can’t catch a break even when they catch a break. As it is, they have more pressing problems at the moment.
Some day—but definitely not today—things will go right for the Nationals in October.