Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

NLDS Preview: Nationals vs Dodgers



The Nats used two starters to get to this point; how much will it hamper their efforts to supplant the class of the NL this  year?  Maybe not too much, if we can get Strasburg on short rest to pitch Game 2.  Read on.

Here’s a preview of the 2019 NLDS.

MLB Post Season schedule

Likely Pitching match-ups:

  • Game 1: Thurs 10/3/19 5:37pm EST in LA: Patrick Corbin vs Walker Buehler (officially announced)
  • Game 2: Fri 10/4/19: 5:37pm EST in LA: likely Stephen Strasburg vs  (likely) Clayton Kershaw
  • Game 3: Sun 10/6/19 time tbd in DC: Max Scherzer vs (likely) Hyung-Jin Ryu
  • Game 4: Mon 10/7/19 time tbd in DC (if necessary): likely Anibal Sanchez vs (likely) Rich Hill/Kenta Maeda/bullpen game
  • Game 5: Wed 10/9/19 time tbd in LA (if necessary): Corbin vs Buehler rematch.

I just don’t think Scherzer can come back on 2 days rest to start a game on Friday, but as noted Strasburg only threw 34 pitches in the WC game and seems like he can get the start on Friday with perhaps a short leash/pitch count.  This means Scherzer on full regular rest for the Sunday home game (that he’ll be up for, for sure) and then at Sanchez for game 4.  That should get the series back to LA and line up a possible game 5 with probably the best possible guy on the hill for that game (lefty Corbin).

Meanwhile the Dodgers are going with the kid Buehler instead of Kershaw; two years ago it was Kershaw that killed the Nats.  But the last time the Nats saw Buehler they bombed him.  The Dodger’s 4th starter is a question mark; Hill is coming off injury and threw just a handful of innings in September but he’s always been solid against the Nats.  If they have to go Maeda or their 5th starter Ross Stripling its not like its a huge step down in performance.


Season head to head: LA beat DC 4 out of 7; they split four games in LA in May interestingly, when the team was nearly at its nadir, then LA took two of three in DC in mid July when the team had turned it around.

Here’s a quick summary of our pitchers versus LA this season.  First in our 4-game set in LA:

  • Patrick Corbin; beat Rich Hill in LA 6-0 and pitched beautifully; 7ip, 3hits, 0 runs.
  • Anibal Sanchez: lost to Kenta Maeda in LA; gave up 6 hits, walked 2 more and got yanked in the 5th
  • Max Scherzer beat LA giving up 2 runs in 7 innings, but Walker Buehler was better and the team only won b/c we got to LA’s bullpen
  • Stephen Strasburg gave up 2 in 6 but Hyung-Jin Ryu gave up one hit through 8 to beat the Nats.

then, in DC in July:

  • Sanchez pitched one of the best games of his season giving up 1 run on 3 hits to match Ryu’s similar output, then the Dodgers got to the bullpen for the win (stop me if you’ve heard that before)
  • Kershaw threw a QS and the Nats tried the “opener” for the only time on the year (starting Matt Grace with some success) before Joe Ross blew up and got the loss
  • Strasburg was brilliant, giving up 1 run on 2 hits through 7 and the Nats beat Buehler to avoid the sweep.

So.  what can we glean from this?

  • Our lefties have been pretty good against the Dodgers and Corbin may have some success.
  • As a team, the Dodgers are much better against RHs versus LHs … but they’re still pretty good against both.
  • Sanchez was more than adequate in his two LA starts.
  • Scherzer and Strasburg should be able to keep the team in games.
  • LA really doesn’t like hitting against either Strasburg or Corbin, and neither of them are the Nats Ace.

I gotta admit, i’m liking our chances here.  This is where having a big-3 of pitching aces matters; the Dodgers are going to have to win more two starts being made by Corbin, Strasburg and Scherzer, three guys who are all likely getting Cy Young votes this year.  I expect a bunch of low-scoring games with the Nats hoping to god their patchwork bullpen keeps it together.

Notable that the closer in the WC game wasn’t Sean Doolittle?  Or was that playing matchups with the Brewers?  Something to watch for.


13 Responses to 'NLDS Preview: Nationals vs Dodgers'

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  1. Dodger OPS is about 50 points less vs. LHP than RHP. Corbin is a significant factor here. So is a rested Doolittle. Doo’s velocity and swagger seemed to be back during the last week of the regular season.

    I’ll move forward these numbers from the last post:

    Corbin vs. LAD, 2018 (4 gms): .125/.213/.213
    Corbin vs. LAD, 2019 (1 gm): .136/.296/.136
    Stras vs. LAD, 2019 (2 gms): .140/.208/.209


    3 Oct 19 at 12:03 pm

  2. Also move forward my thoughts on this series:

    Let me say up front that the Dodgers are a really good team. There’s nothing fluky about winning 106, even if one can note that the NL West was probably the weakest of the three NL divisions. They have three guys with 35+ HRs, including the possible MVP with 47.

    But . . . the Nats have the same record as the Dodgers since 5/23. The Dodgers have led their division by 9+ games since 6/1 so have played no truly meaningful games in months. Kershaw and Ryu have scuffled for the last couple of months, and Jansen isn’t nearly as dominant as he was a couple of years ago.

    The Nats, meanwhile, just got a huge monkey off their backs. They’ve been playing “meaningful” games basically since May, and certainly all the way down the stretch. Stras is peaking, and Corbin is a noted Dodger killer.

    Perhaps most importantly, the Nats are now the underdogs. They’re playing with house money. The weight of expectations is on the Dodgers, not them. They’re opening on the road, where all they need to do is “steal” one win to be in the driver’s seat.

    We’ll see. I’m still curious whether Stras will be up for Gm 2. Davey hasn’t ruled it out. My guess would be that if they win Gm 1, they’ll go with Sanchez in Gm 2, but if they lose Gm 1, they’ll put Stras out there as the stopper. If Sanchez does start Gm 2, then you’ve got the second round of Stras vs. Max as best option to start Gm 3.

    Nats in four.


    3 Oct 19 at 12:05 pm

  3. I initially wrote my guesses as Sanchez in game 2. But 34 pitches … now i’m thinking Strasburg. But you’re right, if they win game 1 behind Corbin, maybe go Sanchez to have Stras and Scherzeron full rest at home; that’d be pretty daunting for LA to overcome.

    Todd Boss

    3 Oct 19 at 12:37 pm

  4. Nat NLDS roster:

    Suero and Voth in, Stevenson and Read out. I would have had Ross or Fedde over Strickland. FWIW, though, Strickland does have terrific career numbers vs. LAD: .209/.270/.341, and the Dodgers bombed Ross the last time they saw him.

    How much do they trust Voth in a playoff situation? The did start him in two tough matchups with the Braves down the stretch, and he did reasonably well.


    3 Oct 19 at 2:14 pm

  5. How to use Rodney (2019 splits):

    0 days rest: .283/.365/.500
    1 day rest: .260/.362/.380
    2 days rest: .167/.231/.167

    SSS, but pretty amazing.


    3 Oct 19 at 3:10 pm

  6. Stras announced for Gm 2. I’m liking our chances here.


    3 Oct 19 at 6:46 pm

  7. Gm 1: what a bad time to revert to the early season miseries of bad bats, bad defense, and bad bullpen. After a shaky first inning, Corbin pitched well enough to win, despite a weirdly squeezed strike zone. (A robo ump calling balls and strikes can’t come soon enough.)

    The good news is that if the Nats can bounce back and steal one in LA today behind Stras, it’s not a big deal. The script will flip, and the Dodgers will be the ones sweating.

    Also, Strickland needs to enter the witness protection program and never be seen again.


    4 Oct 19 at 6:19 am

  8. Gm 2: Were there two HOF hurlers who pitched last night, or three? Stras is Da Man right now, and while he may be a HOF longshot, he’s still got a shot, particularly if he can anchor a memorable postseason run.

    Big kudos to Davey for stepping out of the box to use Max in relief so early in the series. It was a bold move that paid off. Perhaps it will also help get Max focused and get his mojo back for Gm 3.

    Speaking of mojos, it was good to see the top of the order start connecting. They haven’t fully broken out, but a knock or two will help the confidence.

    I’ve said all along that all they had to do was steal one in LA. They did. Plus it looks like they’re only going to have to face Kershaw and Ryu once, at least as starters, as they’ve announced Rich Hill for Gm 4. Will the Nats come back with Corbin in 4 and Stras in 5, or go Sanchez/Corbin and use Stras and Max out of the ‘pen? My bet would be that if they win Gm 3, Sanchez will start Gm 4, but if they lose Gm 3, it will be Corbin.

    The Nats are in it now. They’ve got the tools to win it. But they need HOF Max to show up on Sunday.


    5 Oct 19 at 8:30 am

  9. Boz hinting at Sanchez starting Gm 3, Max with Gm 4, and Stras with Gm 5. Corbin would be available in relief. We’ll see. The last time Sanchez faced the Dodgers, he retired 19 in a row, so I think we’ll see him sometime in this series, starting or relieving.


    5 Oct 19 at 8:44 am

  10. All you need to appreciate Juan Soto more is to watch Atlanta with Acuna doing his Harper routine.

    So glad to say this year’s team has none of that.

    Mark L

    6 Oct 19 at 7:08 am

  11. Gm 3: Sigh. Right move, Corbin got two outs and had two strikes on multiple hitters, but it didn’t work out. Then Suero threw gas on the fire and totally torched it.

    If Corbin had worked out, I wonder if Davey would have gone with him for at least two innings. That’s the only way it could have worked out.

    Nat starters thus far in the series have surrendered only 3 ER in 17 IP. Can’t fault that.

    At what point are the Nat bats going to show up? The bullpen is an easy target, but the hitters in general haven’t done much all postseason. I haven’t seen anything from Rendon that warrants $200M (or from Bellinger, for that matter).

    With Max and Stras lined up, all isn’t lost. Thus far, though, the Dodgers have been the much better team — they’ve hit better, their bullpen has been better, and their starters have pretty much equaled their Nat counterparts.

    Maybe Max found his mojo in Gm 2 and can be vintage Max tonight for seven or eight innings. Maybe the Nat bats channel Sheriff Lobo and clobber Rich Hill. Then we’d have Stras for his defining moment on Wednesday.


    7 Oct 19 at 8:26 am

  12. Look, the gambit with Corbin was a good move that didn’t work out. The game came down to the fact that Corbin couldn’t get Russell Martin out with two outs (this is Russell Martin with a .667 OPS – worse than Yan Gomes – and an OBP higher than his SLG; Russell Martin, who’s numbers this year are roughly similar to Jose Lobaton’s in 2016 when HE inexplicably homered in the playoffs). That AB is why the Nats fell behind.

    But the Nats fell too far behind to come back because Davey inexplicably walked Max Muncy so that Wander Suero could face Justin Turner. I cannot identify a problem to which “bring in Wander Suero to face Justin Turner” is the answer. Corbin had been knocked around, for sure. And he couldn’t put hitters away. But no living breathing human being who has ever watched baseball could say “you know what, I think I’d prefer to have Wander Suero face Justin Turner with two men on rather than have Patrick Corbin face Max Muncy with one man on.” It’s inconceivable to me that Suero v. Turner even happened with men on base, much less that it was a strategic matchup sought out by Davey. Like I said, that decision is not why we gave up the lead and probably not why we lost. But god almighty, I can’t understand walking a batter intentionally so that Wander Suero can face Justin Turner. It just makes no sense.


    7 Oct 19 at 10:08 am

  13. New posted on this. I hated the yanking of Sanchez and feel like the Corbin meltdown was inevitable.

    Todd Boss

    7 Oct 19 at 10:22 am

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