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WASHINGTON (AP) — Even with the NL East already won, the end of the regular season is turning into a logistical headache for the Washington Nationals
The rainout of Wednesday night's game against the New York Mets will force Nationals to play consecutive, day-night doubleheaders at home, against the Mets on Thursday and the Miami Marlins on Friday.
That means one less day to find playing time for Ryan Zimmerman before the regular season ends, and one more challenge of keeping everyone else fresh over a six-game, four-day stretch
Washington then has four days off before beginning postseason play.
"It's not ideal for sure, but we can't do much about the weather," manager Matt Williams said. "We're not the only team that's had to play doubleheaders this year. We've got to deal with it."
The Mets will begin a three-game home series Friday against Houston to wrap their season.
Washington's Blake Treinen (2-3, 1.94) will start the Thursday afternoon game against Dillon Gee (7-8, 3.88), before the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez (9-10, 3.74) faces Zack Wheeler (11-10, 3.49) later that evening.
Williams said he'll use expanded rosters to try to rest all his players for at least one game each day despite trying to clinch the NL's best record.
Zimmerman was scheduled to play left field Wednesday in his second start since straining his right hamstring in late July. He made his first start since the injury Saturday but was reduced to a pinch-hitting role Tuesday after being expected to start at third.
"We're being cautious in that regard," Williams said before Wednesday's washout. "He can monitor his gait and things like that in the outfield."
Even if Zimmerman doesn't feel healthy enough to play regularly at first, third, or left, Williams suggested he would still be seriously considered for Washington's playoff roster. Zimmerman is batting .286 with 37 RBIs in 55 games this season.
"He provides so much for our team," Williams said. "If he's able to play, and he feels good about it, and there are no limitations, then he has those three particular places he can play within any given game. If he isn't, then he's very valuable off the bench."
Nationals center fielder Denard Span wasn't going to play regardless of Wednesday's weather following his tumbling catch in the third inning of Tuesday's 4-2 win over New York.
Span didn't sustain any structural damage to his knee on the play, but remains sore, Williams said. He could play in one the Nationals' two games Thursday.
"No need to push it, for sure, right now," Williams said of Span, who leads the club with a .300 batting average and 31 steals.
The Nationals will start RHPs Doug Fister (15-6, 2.55) and Taylor Hill (0-0, 4.15) in Friday's doubleheader. The order of their starts will be decided tomorrow, Williams said.
Hill is being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse for the start, and has been pitching in instructional league, Williams said.
Stephen Strasburg (13-11, 3.23 ERA) will start Saturday, would give him five days rest before Game 1 of the NLDS, should he start it.
ONE MORE DAY
With the rainout, the Mets (76-81) avoided clinching a sixth consecutive sub-.500 season for at least another day. Their most wins during that stretch was 79 in 2010.
SOUZA A MINORS KEY
The Nationals said OF Steven Souza Jr. was the club's minor league player of the year. He batted .350 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs in 98 games with Triple-A Syracuse while also playing in 17 games with Washington across four months.
Mets: C Travis d'Arnaud sustained an unspecified injury Tuesday, was left out of Wednesday's lineup, and could miss both games of Thursday's doubleheader. "He's going to stay here today and tomorrow but he's going to be looked at tonight," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who declined to disclose the exact nature of those ailments. "I'm sure when we get home he'll be seen by our guys."
Nationals: Williams said RHP Jordan Zimmermann will be pushed back to start Sunday's regular season finale against Miami. Zimmermann was drilled in the throwing shoulder by Casey McGehee's line drive Saturday, but should be fine with the extra rest, Williams said.
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