The magical day that all Washington Nationals fans have been waiting for has arrived. The Nats postseason starts today against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Since 2005, it was really hard to imagine this day would ever come through the trials, tribulations, and 100 loss seasons, but it has. The National League Division Series starts today.
The NLDS is a five-game series, but despite the Nats finishing with the best regular season record in baseball (98-64), they’ll start this series on the road for two games. The new Wild Card game messed with the MLB schedule, and the league didn’t have time to change the schedule enough to accommodate the change. So the Nats will have games one and two in St. Louis and games three through five in Washington, with games four and five, of course, on an “if necessary” basis.
At one point this season, the St. Louis Cardinals had the best run differential in baseball. Run differential tells us how many runs the offense scored compared to how many runs the pitchers gave up, so obviously positive numbers are better. The Nats offense got hot in the last few months and far eclipsed the Red Birds. At the end of the regular season, the Nats had a +137 differential, the best in baseball, while the Cards posted a +117 differential, the second best in the National League.
The Nats pitching staff finished the season with the best ERA in the NL (3.34), while the Cardinals didn’t finish in the top five in the League in ERA, but they still put up an impressive 3.71. Despite the Nats clear advantage, many believe losing Stephen Strasburg for the postseason will put the top seed in some trouble. The first two pitching match ups in the series seem to favor the Nationals by the numbers, but they play the games for a reason.
Probable Starters in St. Louis
Game 1 - Gio Gonzalez vs. Adam Wainwright
-- This a contest of a current Cy Young Award contender against a former Cy Young Award winner. With two potent offenses on the mound, this should be a great matchup if these guys both have their best stuff.
Game 2 - Jordan Zimmermann vs. Jaime Garcia
-- Zimmermann and Garcia are both strong young frontline starters that are crucial pieces to their pitching rotations. Zimmermann had the best year of his career this season, his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, Garcia’s ERA has ticked up over his last three seasons, but his FIP has gotten better over that time. All that means? Don’t be fooled by Zimmermann’s much better ERA this year. They’re both extremely good pitchers.
We’ll preview the games at Nationals Park, which start on Wednesday, October 10, when that day comes. For now, the Nationals hope to do some damage at the away park before the come back home.