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October 2017

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Cubs (92-70) vs. Nationals (97-65) Preview

Written by , Posted in General

The Washington Nationals will host the Cubs on the shore of the Potomac River for Game 1 of the NLDS tonight.  The Nats bring what is probably the best team they’ve ever had to the 2017 postseason, while the Cubs bring what is probably the second best team they’ve had in the last century.

Washington clinched the NL East (a.k.a. The Weakest Division in Baseball) Championship almost a full month ago, while the Cubs had to fight all the way into the last week of the season to secure their second consecutive NL Central Division Championship.

The Curse of Dusty© was felt in Washington this season with Adam Eaton lost for the season in April, and Tre Turner, Jayson Werth, and Bryce Harper all missing a significant number of games due to injury.  Oddly enough though, the usual target of the curse, the pitching staff, was only grazed by it, and with the exception of Eaton, the Nationals now have their regular starting lineup back in order:

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
1.) Tre Turner .284 .338 .451 11 45
2.) Bryce Harper .319 .413 .595 29 87
3.) Anthony Rendon .301 .403 .533 25 100
4.) Daniel Murphy .322 .384 .543 23 93
5.) Ryan Zimmerman .303 .358 .573 36 108
6.) Jayson Werth .226 .322 .393 10 29
7.) Matt Wieters .225 .288 .344 10 52
8.) Michael Taylor .271 .320 .486 19 53
9.) Stephen Strasburg

 

The Cubs will counter with:

AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
1.) Ben Zobrist .232 .318 .375 12 50
2.) Kris Bryant .295 .409 .537 29 73
3.) Anthony Rizzo .273 .392 .507 32 109
4.) Willson Contreras .276 .356 .499 21 74
5.) Kyle Schwarber .211 .315 .467 30 59
6.) Addison Russell .239 .304 .418 12 43
7.) Jason Heyward .259 .326 .389 11 59
8.) Javier Baez .273 .317 .480 23 75
9.) Kyle Hendricks

I put this lineup in because the more I stared at the names, the less I could believe that Joe Maddon is going to leave either Ben Zobrist or Kyle Schwarber on the bench in a postseason game against a right-handed starter.  And we saw last October what a difference maker Javier Baez was, so I don’t see him sitting either.  I realize this puts Heyward in CF and Zobrist in RF, which is a recipe for a defensive train wreck, so I suppose some saner angel of Joe Maddon’s nature could put Jon Jay or *GASP* Albert Almora, Jr. in CF.  I’m hoping the choice of Hendricks for Game 1 is a sign of better choices to come.

Though the Nationals’ slash lines look more impressive (particularly those four guys slugging over .500), they scored 819 runs this season, while the Cubs scored 822.

The Nationals have three starters who had a sub 3 ERA this season: Max Scherzer (.251), Stephen Strasburg (.252), and Gio Gonzalez (2.96).   Given Dusty Baker’s love of overworking his starters, I expect to see only these three in a 5-game series.  Scherzer tweaked his hamstring in his last postseason start, so he has been bumped back all the way to Game 3.  Strasburg has been tabbed as the Game 1 starter and Gonzalez for Game 2.

The Nats improved rebuilt their bullpen at the trading deadline by trading for Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle.  These three have formed a very effective 7-8-9 punch, as it were.  They have posted 3.46, 1.37, and 2.40 ERAs respectively since joining the Nationals in July.  The Nats don’t have much in the bullpen after these three, but the trend in postseason pitching management seems to be to use as few relievers as possible, so that might not be a huge issue, especially in a 5-game series with two travel days.  If the Nats get 6 innings out of their starter, it would seem the Cubs have an uphill battle in front of them.  However, if history has taught us anything it is that Dusty will leave some starter in three batters too long and will lose control of a pivotal game before tapping his bullpen.  So we have that going for us.

I would say the Cubs have a slight advantage when it comes to defense.  Daniel Murphy is sub-par at 2B, as is Jayson Werth in LF, but the other six are very solid.  Similarly, the Cubs have 2 below average defenders in Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist but are above average to exceptional everywhere else.  Replace Zobrist with Jay or Almora, Jr. and the Cubs are clearly superior.

The Cubs also have the advantage in postseason experience and success.  But the Nationals have a good amount of postseason experience of their own.  The franchise, dating back to the Montreal Expos days, has never won a postseason series but, as we saw last year, that kind of thing can change in a hurry.

X-Factor #1-Nats: Tre Turner.  When he gets on base, his speed is a game changer.  He will run wild against Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.  Let’s hope they can keep him off the bases, or he’ll be on third base two pitches into Bryce Harper’s at-bat.

X-Factor #2-Nats: The Prime Time Duo.  Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman have torn it up in the postseason, with slash lines of .351/.430/.662, and .357/.391/.571, respectively.  I’m sure we all remember the havoc Murphy wreaked on the Cubs in the 2015 NLCS.

X-Factor-Cubs #1: Kyle Schwarber.  I know I’m going to catch hell for this, and I can hear the cries of “small sample size” now, but Schwarbs has a postseason slash line of .364/.451/.727.  I really think he is one of those Reggie Jackson-types who is at his best when the lights shine their brightest.  Thed and Maddon have stuck by Kyle through his struggles this season, and I believe this is why.

X-Factor-Cubs #2: Kyle Hendricks.  Hendricks was a beast in the NLCS and the World Series last year, giving up only two earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.  And he has an exceptional pick-off move, which could be critical (see X-Factor #1 above).  If he can carry the Cubs to a win tomorrow in D.C., it will put the Cubs firmly in the driver’s seat in this series.

When everything is tallied, we are looking at two teams with very strong offenses and pitching.  The season series went 4-3 in Washington’s favor.  I expect this series to be equally close.

  • Allan Birmantas

    Goodbye Cubbies. Three and out. They just don’t have the pitching to handle this powerful lineup. Granted, not much at the bottom, but the top and the middle is much superior to the Cub’s lineup.

    • Buddy

      The Cubs may not win this series, but it won’t be three and out. No chance in hell. Anyway, was really hoping to see Happ in the starting lineup.

    • Bryzzo1744

      Stupid white sox fan

    • Bryzzo1744

      You were saying?

      • Allan Birmantas

        three and out, but sometimes the best team does not win.

      • Eddie Von White

        The best team on any given day pulls out the win. The best team won last night.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Yup he’s a white sox fan

    • Bryzzo1744

      You were saying?

    • Doc Raker

      The Baseball Gods are always listening, be careful.

  • Brad Lyerla

    Roster just announced. Rondon and Rivera don’t make it. Wilson, Lackey and Martin do make it.

    Adam, I agree with your line up for tonight.

    Our pitching is quite good enough. Hendricks led the league in era for the second half by quite a large margin. He can win game one, though our hitters will be challenged. After that, we have the overall edge in pitching.

    The personnel on these teams are so evenly matched, however, that it may come down to the managers. Hey-hey.

    • Michael S.

      Rondon not on the roster, but Wilson is? Do the brain trust not understand the concept of ‘sunk cost’?

      • Brad Lyerla

        I wish I could say I was surprised. But I am not.

      • Adam Peters

        The Nationals have a lot of lefties on the roster, so that’s probably why Wilson got in.

        Not saying it’s right.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        I heard a Theo interview on the Score where he said Murphy is 0 for 6 against Wilson, and that Murphy is a big consideration because of 2015.

      • Michael S.

        That…isn’t persuasive. Murphy doesn’t have a hit off me in his career either, why am I not on the roster?

        Wilson’s got a 2+ WHIP since coming to the Cubs, and 43% of inherited runners that have come around on him…

        The only saving grace I can see is, he’s pitched to 91 guys since coming over and hasn’t allowed a home run.

      • Bryzzo1744

        I think if we advance he won’t be on the NLCS roster.

      • Maybe he’ll never see a baseball. (Fingers crossed.)

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        I am hoping you are right.

  • Kyle

    I don’t understand why Wilson made it over Rondon. Rondon was lights out his last 7 or so appearances. And I seriously hope Jay hits lead off instead of Zo.

  • Michael S.

    Perfect match on the lineup…where’d you get the iPad?

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      Let’s hope Zo gets us started with a ringing double.

      • I hope he starts off with a single, then a double, then a triple, then a home run. The dipshit cycle.

      • Bryzzo1744

        The morons cycle is the triple is last. Len won’t say it if that’s the missing hit. I hope Zobrist starts off with a round tripper.

  • Few hours before game time.. actually getting nervous.

    • Seymour Butts

      Top of the 7th…still nervous.

      • Me too. Top 8th.

      • Top 9.. feeling better.

      • Seymour Butts

        Post game.
        Feeling pretty good.
        The dude who posted first above can kiss my hairy white ass

      • Gross.. go Cubs though

      • Seymour Butts

        Not you… alan whatever way up top.

      • Noted, still gross.

  • Michael S.

    This feels like its gonna be a stolen win. Held hitless through 5.2, Strasburg K’s 10…and they’re heading to the 9th with a 3 run lead.

    • s/stolen/moxie/g

      • Ben

        Hendricks was better that’s it period

      • Can’t argue with that.. KB taking 2nd was gigantic.

  • Kyle

    The. Pro. Fessor.

  • Bryzzo1744

    Pleasantly surprised that Maddon didn’t give Hendricks the boot after 4 2/3. It’s about time.

    • No kidding! I thought for sure he’d get yanked! Thank goodness!

  • Doc Raker

    Jimi is an artist.

    • Seymour Butts

      As is Kyle.

  • Doc Raker

    What bugs me, no Sunday Cubs game and Wilson and not Rondon or Martin? Why was Martin in tonights game instead of Almora? I don’t get that.

    • Joe Aiello

      I think we get Wilson because he was invested in and he throws left handed. The Nats have some good lefty wood and you have to at least try Wilson. If he sucks, I’d guess he doesn’t make the roster in the NLCS. As for the defensive substitution for Martin, I have to think it was to save Almora’s bat as a PH if needed.

      • Doc Raker

        If he sucks there won’t be a NLCS