NLDS Preview: Can the Nats pull the upset of favored Dodgers?
Sort of emblematic of the 2019 season for Washington, which lost 31 of its last 50 games, but saved its best for last.
Next up for the Nats: only the best team in the NL.
The Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games in the regular season, and won the NL West by 21 games.
Their only real rough patch dates all the way back to April, when a five-game losing streak dropped the Dodgers to an 8-8 record.
They were 32-18 on May 23, the date at which point the Nats began their turnaround from that 19-31 start.
The teams’ records since:
- Washington: 75-38
- Los Angeles: 74-38
Walker Buehler (1-4, 3.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.6K/9) gets the ball for Game 1 tonight, at the head of a Big Three that includes Hyun-Jin Ryu 14-5, 2.32 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.0K/9) and this other guy you may have heard of, Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.5 K/9).
The LA pen ranked fourth in MLB in 2019 with a 3.78 ERA, and was second among all ‘pens with a .220 opponent batting average.
The only fly in the ointment has been closer Kenley Jansen (5-3, 33 saves/8 blown saves, 3.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11.4K/9).
Jansen was 1-0 with six saves, and one blown save, in September, with a 3.18 ERA.
The lineup is formidable: headlined by MVP candidate Cody Bellinger (47 HR, 115 RBI, 1.035 OPS, 15 steals), Corey Seager (19 HR, 87 RBI), Max Muncy (35 HR, 98 RBI) and Justin Turner (27 HR, 67 RBI, .290 batting average).
The Dodgers led the NL in runs (886), slugging percentage (.472) and OPS (.810).
The Nats, on their side, were second in the NL in runs (873), tied for first in batting average (.265), tops in on-base percentage (.342), third in slugging (.456) and second in OPS (.796).
Your key guys: MVP candidate Anthony Rendon (34 HR, 126 RBI, 1.010 OBP), Juan Soto (34 HR, 110 RBI, .949 OBP, 12 steals), Trea Turner (19 HR, 57 RBI, 35 steals) and Howie Kendrick (17 HR, 62 RBI, .344 batting average, .966 OPS).
Washington had to use two of its Big Three to get through the wild-card game, leaving Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10.6K/9) to start Game 1.
Manager Davey Martinez hadn’t announced his starter for Game 2 as of this writing. The best guess is that he would go with Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.8K/9), who threw 34 pitches in three scoreless relief innings in the wild-card game.
Martinez could opt to go with Anibal Sanchez (11-8, 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.3K/9), who last pitched on Sept. 25, though doing that runs the risk of getting run out of the playoffs without getting a start from ace Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 12.7K/9), who would be on regular rest on Sunday for Game 3 in DC.
Either way you go in Games 1 and 2, you’re likely going to need an outsized contribution from MLB’s worst bullpen in 2019 (5.66 ERA, .266 opponent batting average).
Story by Chris Graham