Ok, I’ll admit to being (as one commenter said recently) the “Eeyore” of Nationals fans. I was scared of Atlanta and thought we would struggle to beat them in a short series starting on their turf. I posted my baseball predictions and the two teams I thought would make the series both lost under sometimes interesting circumstances. The unbeatable ace Kris Medlen got beat, losing a start for the Braves for the first time in 24 times (not that he really pitched badly; I’ll take a 6+ inning, 3 hit, 0 walk performance every day of the week. Think about how difficult it is to give up 5 runs on 3 hits…). So perhaps I’ll understand if you don’t really want to trust my opinion on predicting the divisional series.
Anyway. So the Nats are traveling to St. Louis to start the NLDS. If you’re looking for a guess as to who has the advantage by looking at the two meetings between the teams this year, you may find definitive proof wanting.
- The Nats took 3 of 4 at the end of August from St. Louis, bombing them for 31 runs in four games and really roughing up three of St. Louis’ best starters (in order Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse, tagging each for 5-6 runs). Only Jake Westbrook kept the Nats offense at bay, and as far as I can tell he’s not going to be on the playoff roster. The one loss in this series was in one of the more amazing games the Nats played this year; they blew a 4 run first inning lead, fell behind 8-6 on Jordan Zimmermann‘s worst outing of the year, rallied to take the lead only to have the bullpen blow the game.
- The Nats then traveled to St. Louis the last week of the season and were pretty much bombed themselves, with St. Louis scoring 26 runs in three games while taking 2 of 3 with our guys Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler having nights they’d rather forget.
So, which series is more educational to help predict what may happen now? As commenters have pointed out, momentum means nothing and a shutout yesterday indicates nothing for today. Fair enough. We have learned that both offense are capable of really putting runs on the board, fast. But that wasn’t exactly news either; the teams were 2nd (Cardinals) and 5th (Nationals) in runs scored in the NL this year.
What is fair to say is that the Nats probably have a more dangerous opponent in St. Louis; they’re a better offense, though they clearly hit right-handed hitters better than lefties (a 113 wRC+ versus right handed hurlers versus 104 versus lefties). And they’re getting back a grizzled post-season veteran in Chris Carpenter just in time for the playoffs. Carpenter is probably on most people’s short list for “guys i’d trust to start Game 7″ in this league, and now the Nats seem set to face him in Game 3.
Lets look at the pitching matchups (some of this is a guess; official starters havn’t been named all the way through the 5-game series but the below should be what we see);
|Series||GM#||Date/time (EST)||Home-Visitor||Home Starter||Visiting Starter||Advantage|
|NLDS 1-4||1||10/7/12 3pm||Stl-WAS||Wainwright||Gonzalez||Wsh|
|NLDS 1-4||2||10/8/12 4:30pm||Stl-WAS||Garcia||Zimmermann||Wsh|
|NLDS 1-4||3||10/10/12 ?time||WAS-Stl||Jackson||Carpenter||Stl|
|NLDS 1-4||4||10/11/12 ?time||WAS-Stl||Detwiler||Lohse||Tossup|
|NLDS 1-4||5||10/12/12 ?time||WAS-Stl||Gonzalez||Wainwright||Wsh|
The good news: Washington has shown it can blast St. Louis starters. As mentioned above, the team put up very big numbers on 3 of the 4 starters they anticipate seeing in this series. Meanwhile, St. Louis gets to see our Ace Gio Gonzalez twice; the last time they saw him Gio pitched a 5-hit shutout. They also see Detwiler in game 4, meaning three of their five potential series games are against Lefties (whom they are weaker against). Zimmermann’s home-away splits favor him on the road, and I think Jackson will be looking for revenge for his poor outing against them the last time out.
I’ll admit; I was scared of Atlanta. And I’m wary of St. Louis, especially after the late season spanking. But, they didn’t see Gonzalez in that series and now are set to see him twice. The Nats offense isn’t going to be afraid of any St. Louis starter (perhaps outside of Carpenter, who a lot of them havn’t seen in a while), and should put runs on the board.
Prediction? I think the Nats have the pitching matchup advantage in 3 of the 5 games and may only be a pitching “underdog” in the Jackson-Carpenter start. The goal is to get a split in St Louis and Gonzalez-Zimmermann gives them a great shot in both games. I like our chances.