CHICAGO — Game 4 of the NL Division Series was postponed by rain on Tuesday, giving Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta another day to rest his troublesome right hamstring and putting ace Stephen Strasburg in play for the Washington Nationals.
The Cubs and Nationals took batting practice and the grounds crew got the field ready before bringing out the tarp. The rain started to fall about a half-hour after the game was supposed to start at Wrigley Field. With more showers in the forecast, Major League Baseball then called it off.
Chicago leads 2-1 in the best-of-five series going into Game 4, now scheduled for Wednesday at 4:08 p.m. EDT. There is rain in the forecast for early in the day.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the World Series champions will stay with Arrieta. Nationals manager Dusty Baker left open the possibility of using Strasburg, who started the opener, instead of Tanner Roark.
If the Nationals win Wednesday, Game 5 would be Thursday in Washington. The winner of the NLDS takes on the Dodgers in the next round, scheduled to begin Saturday in Los Angeles.
Chicago won 2-1 at home Monday.
Arrieta has pitched just 10 1/3 innings since Aug. 30. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner hurt his right hamstring during a loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 4. He returned late last month and made a couple starts down the stretch, but lasted just three innings in a loss at St. Louis on Sept. 26.
The Cubs skipped Arrieta’s last turn in the rotation in the regular season and then pushed him back to Game 4 for the playoffs, giving the right-hander ample time to rest.
“Jake’s really primed for this opportunity,” Maddon said Tuesday. “He’s done a great job of rehabbing his leg. He feels very good arm- and leg-wise right now. I’m real eager to watch him play.”
The 31-year-old Arrieta was a key factor in Chicago’s turnaround in the last part of the season, going 6-3 with a 2.28 ERA in his final 12 outings. Arrieta, who is eligible for free agency after the season, could be making his last start in a Cubs uniform.
“These next few days are going to be extremely special, and if we’re fortunate enough to get past these guys, like I feel we are, I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy the last few weeks,” Arrieta said Monday.
Roark is from Wilmington, Illinois, about 60 miles south of Chicago, and grew up rooting for the Cubs. Baker praised Roark’s “warrior mentality” this week, but he was non-committal when asked before Tuesday’s rainout if he might go with Strasburg if the game was postponed.
“As of right now, you know, Tanner is pitching today, and so we’ll make that determination if and only when the game is called,” he said.
With Max Scherzer nursing his own right hamstring injury, Strasburg got the ball in Game 1 and turned in a dominant performance Friday night. The right-hander was working on a no-hitter before Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hit consecutive RBI singles with two outs in the sixth inning.
Strasburg struck out 10 in seven innings and was charged with two unearned runs and three hits in Washington’s 3-0 loss. Going back to the regular season, he is 5-2 with a microscopic 0.74 ERA and 73 Ks in 60 2/3 innings over his last nine starts.
The biggest winner of Tuesday’s rainout is the Dodgers, who eliminated Arizona with a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of their NLDS on Monday night. If the NLDS between the Nationals and Cubs goes the distance, the winner will have to play four times in five days.