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Rain forces Cubs-Nationals NLDS game postponed until Wednesday

Stephen Strasburg is the hottest pitcher in the major leagues. The Washington Nationals face an elimination game Wednesday.

Strasburg would be on regular rest. He will not start. He is not believed to be injured.

The controversy flared after Game 4 of the National League division series was rained out here Tuesday. The Chicago Cubs lead the best-of-five series two games to one, but the rainout would have enabled the Nationals to bump scheduled starter Tanner Roark and use Strasburg instead.

Manager Dusty Baker said Strasburg had reported being “under the weather,” although Baker offered no specifics. Baker also said Strasburg had thrown a bullpen session Tuesday, but club officials told Nationals reporters Strasburg actually threw the bullpen session Monday.

Scott Boras, the agent for Strasburg, and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo each did not return a message from The Times.

Roark is not without credentials. He started the semifinal game of the World Baseball Classic for Team USA.

But, of the 31 pitchers to qualify among NL leaders, Strasburg ranked third in earned-run average. Roark ranked 27th.

It is Strasburg who had a 0.86 ERA after the All-Star break. It is Strasburg who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Game 1.

And it is Strasburg who signed a $175-million contract extension last year, foregoing free agency. The Nationals were presumed to have gotten a hometown discount, and one prominent pitcher said he would neither grant his team a discount nor accept fewer years.

“Aces get seven years,” Jake Arrieta of the Cubs said then.

Arrieta will be on the mound Wednesday. Strasburg will not.

Dodgers cheers

The Dodgers caught a break when the Arizona Diamondbacks had to use top starter Robbie Ray in relief during the wild-card game, rendering him unavailable for Game 1 of the division series and relatively ineffective in Game 2.

Now, while the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw relax in advance of Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Saturday, their opponent might exhaust its pitching staff Wednesday and Thursday, then fly across the country to Los Angeles.

“Of course it’s better to be in their position,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s no way to deny that. But you’re dealt the hand, you play it, and you go on from there. Either way, man, I just want us to get there.”

Dodgers blues

Baker already had taken criticism for two of his Game 3 decisions, in removing Scherzer in the seventh inning — immediately after he gave up his first hit — and in not using his best relievers to pitch to Anthony Rizzo, who delivered the game-winning hit.

He said he is not bothered by criticism, primarily because he does his best to avoid hearing it. He learned that lesson, he said, as a player for the Dodgers four decades ago.

In his first season with the Dodgers, in 1976, he batted .242 as he tried to play through a knee injury suffered in a pickup basketball game. He hit a home run on opening day, but he did not hit another until after the All-Star break.

“I would run to home plate so I wouldn’t have to hear the boos, because it’s a long walk from the dugout to home plate in Dodger Stadium,” Baker said. “Then they broke some lamps out at my house, they scratched my car, and people were very disgruntled over the fact that they even traded for me.”

In 1977, Baker hit .291 with 30 home runs, and the Dodgers appeared in the World Series.

“I went from being the scorn of the town to being one of the heroes of the town,” he said. “I just want to remain in between, and not have anybody control my self-esteem. … People can say what they want to say and write what they want to write, because I have supreme confidence in myself.”

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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