Now that we know who the Washington Nationals will be playing in the NLDS we can start to analyze what to expect to happen in this series. The Washington Nationals will be starting on the road against Adam Wainwright. If it feels like the Nationals were just in St. Louis having to face Adam Wainwright it is because they were. The Nationals lost that game 12-2 as Edwin Jackson was never able to get anything going and the Cardinals mauled him and knocked him from the game early.
The Nationals will have a different pitcher on the mound this time around in Gio Gonzalez who had a 2012 season to remember. He finished the season with the most wins in the NL and the highest fWAR. In total Gio was one of the best pitchers in the National League. Wainwright is no pushover, but he did have a Jekyll and Hyde type season. His 1-1 record and 7.27 ERA against the Nationals speaks to that. He was very good in his start at Busch Stadium and very bad in his start at Nationals Park. All in all the Nats finished the season series against the Cardinals with a record of 4-3 with two of the three losses coming on the road.
Having Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann lined up to start games one and two against the Cardinals should give the Nationals an advantage. One of them may have a bad start or get beat, but it isn’t likely that they both will, and if the Nationals can split on the road then they will get to come home and play three games against the Cardinals at Nats Park where they were 3-1 against the Cardinals and 50-31 overall.
None of this matters that much. The post-season has very little to do with how a team did in the regular season. It is far more important that a team is able to get a couple players hot and then run their way through October. Over the last 14 days the Nationals have had a number of players hot. Bryce Harper over the last 14 days had an OPS of 1.060, Morse .998, LaRoche 923, Desmond .834, Werth .826, and Zimmerman .819. That is 2/3 of the line-up coming into the series hot. If two or even three of them can stay hot or someone like Danny Espinosa or Kurt Suzuki can heat up then the Nationals will have the offensive side of the game figured out.
The team the Nationals will be facing, the St. Louis Cardinals, finished the 2012 season with the second most runs scored in the National League. Up and down the Cardinals line-up are guys that can hit and can hit for power and average. It is a dangerous line-up, but the Nationals have a pitching staff that can take care of dangerous line-ups. The Nationals pitchers in total finished with the top ERA in the National League. The Nationals pitchers have dealt with tough line-ups all season and with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann at the top they will be able to do it again.
It is unknown at this point if it will be enough. The Cardinals have their own hot hitters and good pitchers. They earned their way to the post-season just like the Nationals did and of the possible match-ups the Cardinals provide the most difficult for the Nationals. They have an offense that can score a lot of runs against anyone. The Nationals pitching and defense is going to have to be on the top of its game while the line-up is going to have to find ways to push runs across the plate.
In a series with two teams as equal as this it is tough to say who is going to win. The best thing to do is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. The Nationals won 98 games, the NL East, and earned the right to play the Wild Card winner for a reason. Now the Nats need to take the field and show why they belong in the post-season by knocking off the defending champs. This is a good time to be a Nationals fan and just getting to see the team in the post-season will provide a fun that has been lacking in the nation’s capital, and if they can move on it will be even better.