The Nationals stormed through the second half and finished with the league’s best record. Much of their success was due to pitching. The starting pitching down the stretch was tremendous, and having a deep bullpen took pressure off of the starters to get deep into games. The lineup core is the same as took the field two seasons ago as favorites against St. Louis in the NLDS. Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth no doubt still feel that sting and are determined not to drop this series. The Giants, led by the calm Bruce Bochy, methodically and quietly go about the business of winning. The Giants exercised tremendous patience at the plate in their wild card win over Pittsburgh. If they become the free swingers we are accustomed to seeing, this could be an easy series win for the Nats. Washington won five of the seven meetings this season, including three of four at San Francisco.
Pitching, pitching, pitching. When Gio Gonzalez is the forgotten man in the starting rotation, it must be pretty good. Stephen Strasburg ended the season with three scoreless outings, Jordan Zimmermann tossed a 10-strikeout, one-walk no-hitter in his final start, and Doug Fister won 16 games after missing the first month of the season.
This team has had success in the postseason before, winning two of the previous four World Series. The manager and the players know how to win big games. At home, or on the road, this team will not be rattled. This team can be streaky offensively, especially Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and even Buster Posey to some degree. If that trio gets hot, this will be a tough lineup to get through.
Gregor Blanco, who will lead off for the Giants, carries a low .251 OBP leading off games this season…Pablo Sandoval’s batting average off of the Nats’ first three starters is .424 in 33 at-bats…Stephen Strasburg ended the season with 20.1 scoreless innings…San Francisco’s Game 2 starter Tim Hudson made two starts against Washington this season, winning both with a 0.73 ERA in 12.1 innings. The righthander is 18-5 with a 2.35 ERA in 31 career starts vs. the Nats…Washington pitchers were 19-8 in September with a 2.55 ERA, and that includes a 22-hit, 15-run debacle in the second game of doubleheader against Miami on the final Friday of the season…Over his last seven starts, Gio Gonzalez owns a 4-1 mark with a 2.36 ERA and .191 batting average against. And he’s the Nats’ Game 4 starter.
San Francisco’s Game 1 starter Jake Peavy gives the Giants an excellent opportunity to steal a game in Washington. The Giants won eight of Peavy’s 12 starts after coming over from Boston, including his last six. Over his last nine outings, Peavy has a 1.35 ERA and opponents are batting .218…It will be interesting to see what kind of memory Washington reliever Drew Storen has. After saving 43 games in 2011, he missed significant time in 2012, making just 37 appearances, all after the All-Star break. He entered the deciding Game 5 in the ninth with a two-run lead before a couple of walks and hits by Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma wrecked the Nats’ season. He did not regain the closer’s role until last month when he had 10 saves in September. Will the 2012 NLDS memory haunt him in this series?
Nationals in 4