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Nationals' Game 2 starter still up in the air, Baker says

Nationals' Game 2 starter still up in the air, Baker says
Washington's Gio Gonzalez pitches against Pittsburgh on Sept. 23. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

On the eve of the National League Division Series, Dusty Baker insisted that the Washington Nationals have not decided who will start Game 2.

"We're not trying to hide anything from you," the Nationals manager said.

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Max Scherzer starts Game 1. And Game 2?

"It would be easy if we had [injured Stephen] Strasburg," Baker said.

The Nationals could emphasize the Dodgers' greatest weakness by starting left-hander Gio Gonzalez in Game 2, giving them the option to start Gonzalez again in Game 5. But that would require Scherzer to start Game 4 on short rest.

"Probably not, "Baker said.

Although Dodgers ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw has started on short rest in the playoffs in each of the past three years, Scherzer never has started on short rest, in either the regular season or postseason.

"You've got to see how the series is unfolding in Game 4," Scherzer said. "I've come back in relief before. But you've got to cross that bridge when you get there."

The Dodgers ranked last among the 30 major league teams in batting average (.213), on-base percentage (.290) and slugging percentage (.332) against left-handers. The Nationals' other starters are right-handers Tanner Roark and Joe Ross.

Catching up

The Nationals' catcher in Game 1: Pedro Severino, 23, who has started nine major league games. A reporter asked Bryce Harper how to describe Severino.

"I really wouldn't know," Harper said. "I should call my brother and ask him."

Harper's brother, Bryan, is a left-handed reliever in the Nationals' minor league system and pitched to Severino at triple-A Syracuse this season.

Wilson Ramos, the Nationals' starting catcher, sustained a torn knee ligament last week and is out. Jose Lobaton, the veteran backup, is playing through a sore ankle, and Severino batted .315 off left-handers at Syracuse.

Bryan Harper, 26, has played 168 minor league games over six seasons without a major league callup. Bryce Harper, 23, was called up after playing 130 minor league games.

Wild about NLDS

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Nationals closer Mark Melancon is in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, but with less stress this time. If his team loses Friday, his season will not be over.

In each of the last three years, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That meant playing in the wild-card game three consecutive years, winning once and losing twice.

"In reality, the wild-card game is the single most fun game you can play, besides Game 7 of the World Series," he said. "It's a blast. From that standpoint, I'll miss it. But I won't miss it that much."

Day of pride

As baseball struggles to improve minority hiring among managers and in the front office, the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS marks the first postseason meeting of African American managers: Baker for the Nationals, Dave Roberts for the Dodgers.

"It gives us some pride in being African American," Baker said, "to show people that, you know, not only can we do the job, but we can do the job better than most.

"Hopefully it motivates other organizations to get some African American managers, and also motivates other players that are playing now, and former players that have managerial aspirations. It probably brings a lot of pride across America — and not only African American people, but everybody.

Baker's dozen

Baker referred Wednesday to his selection on the "All-Dodger team." That team, according to Dodgers historian Mark Langill, was the Dodgers' 100th anniversary team, as selected by fans in 1990.

Baker, Kirk Gibson and Duke Snider were the outfielders, with Roy Campanella at catcher, Steve Garvey at first base, Jackie Robinson at second, Pee Wee Reese at shortstop and Ron Cey at third. Sandy Koufax was the left-handed starter, Don Drysdale the right-handed starter, Ron Perranoski the left-handed reliever and Mike Marshall the right-handed reliever.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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