It’s the matchup that many thought would be last year’s NLCS. Though we had to wait an extra year to see it, it doesn’t make it any less exciting. The Washington Nationals, coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history, look to oust the reigning World Series champs, the Chicago Cubs. Let’s take a look at how these two possible World Series contenders match up.
Game 1 starters – Kyle Hendricks (RHP) vs Stephen Strasburg (RHP)
Kyle Hendricks may have had a lackluster season in 2017, but lackluster for Kyle Hendricks is nothing to disregard. The Cubs’ starting pitcher posted a 3.03 ERA in 24 starts and struck out 123 while walking just 40. Since he missed nearly two months with a hand injury, it’s easy to guess that his numbers would be better as Hendricks caught fire near the end of the season, posting a 2.31 ERA over his last 13 starts. Hendricks only faced the Nationals once this year, in a losing effort, allowing 5 hits and 3 runs over 7 innings.
Stephen Strasburg had a fantastic first half of the season, there’s no doubt. But, for as good of a first half that he had, he had a superhuman second half. Since the All-Star break, Strasburg has gone 6-1 with a 0.86 ERA. With a second half this good, Strasburg catapulted himself into the Cy Young conversation. In his only matchup against the Cubs this year, Strasburg won, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) and 4 hits over 7 innings.
|Cubs Lineup||Batting Average||HRs||RBI’s|
|Anthony Rizzo, 1B||.273||32||109|
|Kris Bryant, 3B||.295||29||73|
|Jon Jay, CF||.296||2||34|
|Ben Zobrist, LF||.232||12||50|
|Addison Russell, SS||.239||12||43|
|Alex Avila, C||.264||14||49|
|Jason Heyward, RF||.259||11||59|
|Javier Baez, 2B||.273||23||75|
|Kyle Hendricks, P||.100||0||5|
|Nationals Lineup||Batting Average||HRs||RBIs|
|Trea Turner, SS||.284||11||45|
|Bryce Harper, RF||.319||29||87|
|Anthony Rendon, 3B||.301||25||100|
|Daniel Murphy, 2B||.322||23||93|
|Ryan Zimmerman, 1B||.303||36||108|
|Jayson Werth, LF||.226||10||29|
|Matt Wieters, C||.225||10||52|
|Michael Taylor, CF||.271||19||53|
|Stephen Strasburg, P||.130||2||3|
Who to watch
Anthony Rizzo is having a great season, hitting 32 HRs and 109 RBIs. He’s having a better second half of the season, statistically, but he’s struggled against the Nationals this year, only hitting .229 against them.If he can bring his power and slugging ability to the series, he could turn the tide quickly
The other half of the Cubs’ young power hitting duo, Kris Bryant, has had a markedly better year against the Nationals so far. He hit .286 with an OPS of .855 against the Nationals this year. Bryant and Rizzo will look to provide a deadly 1-2 punch at the beginning of the order that could send the Nationals staff into fits.
On Washington’s side, all eyes are on Bryce Harper. Ever since his knee injury put him on the shelf in late August, baseball pundits around the country have wondered just how effective Harper will be in the offseason. Harper will be glad to start his postseason against the Cubs as he has hit .333 so far this year against them with a .894 OPS. The Cubs will be a good test for Harper as the baseball world looks on to see just how effective Harper can be after his injury.
It‘s also hard to argue against the year Ryan Zimmerman has had in 2017. Dubbed the RYANassaince by the Nationals faithful, Zimmerman is batting .303 with a team-leading 36 home runs and 108 RBIs. He has yet to find the same success against the Cubs, however, as he only batted .156 with no home runs against Chicago this season. If Harper’s injury keeps him from playing up to his level, many in the Washington dugout will look to Zimmerman to help shoulder the load against the Cubs
Nationals 6, Cubs 2
Strasburg has had too good of a season this year to bet against him in Game 1. Though Hendricks has been hot as of late, his ERA is much larger than Strasburg’s and he’s already lost to the Nationals once this season. If the Nats can get their bats going, I believe Strasburg will shut the Cubs down enough to pick up a crucial Game 1 win at home.
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