By Lewis Gould
The Nationals try to break their jinx of never having won a postseason series (Tuesday’s Wild Card win over Milwaukee doesn’t qualify technically as a series) tonight in Dodger Stadium in game 1 of the NLDS.
There are six combined Cy Young Awards and Hall of Fame credentials of Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw and Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer. Throw in two of the greatest young hitters in the game in Cody Bellinger and Juan Soto, two of the top three MVP candidates in Bellinger and Anthony Rendon and the Nationals’ $550 million worth of starting pitching excellence, and it’s clear this matchup provides more than enough juice for a mere best-of-five format.
First one to three wins. The loser will have to face the usual ghosts. And here’s how it may break down:
- Game 1: LHP Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA) vs. RHP Walker Buehler (14-4, 3.26 ERA)
- Game 2: RHP Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 3.03 ERA)
- Game 3: RHP Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92 ERA) vs. LHP Hyun-jin Ryu (14-5, 2.32 ERA)
- Game 4: RHP Anibal Sanchez (11-8, 3.85 ERA) vs. LHP Rich Hill (4-1, 2.45 ERA)
- Game 5: Strasburg vs. Kershaw
The Nationals come in on a high of winning the wild-card game over Milwaukee, but with the knowledge they can’t align their pitching the way they’d like. Corbin was a much better pitcher at Nationals Park this season (a 2.40 ERA) than he was on the road (4.18), but he was the only one of their three 200-strikeout guys not pressed into action in Tuesday’s wild-card thriller. And he did toss seven shutout innings at Dodger Stadium in May.
The bigger quandary is whether to bring back Strasburg in Game 2 on two days’ rest after he threw 34 pitches in relief in the wild-card win. Otherwise, Sanchez would start, and though he pitches better on the road than home (3.48 ERA/4.24 ERA) that alignment would limit Strasburg and Scherzer to just one start each in the series.