MLB - The NLDS preview
Baseball The National League Division Series gets underway tonight with two very appealing match-ups.
First, you have the reigning champs, the Chicago Cubs traveling to Washington to face the Nationals. The Cubs scuttled with a post-World Series hangover in the first half of 2017 but came alive with a terrific second half led by pitcher Jake Arrieta. The final two months of the season the Cubs offense scored the second most runs in MLB with 338. The starting pitching, however, remained flaccid throughout the season for Chicago and their ability to stop Washington’s strong offense will be the x-factor for their shot at making a second consecutive World Series.
The Nationals, on paper, have the best one-two starting pitcher punch in the playoffs with Stephen Strasberg and Max Scherzer. For Washington, Scherzer’s health is a concern due to the pitcher’s injured hamstring. If Scherzer is 100% healthy, then I have a hard time believing that the Cubs make it out of Washington with a win. But Scherzer looks to start game 3 in Chicago, limiting him to just one start in the series.
With Scherzer hurt, look for Chicago to split the first two games in Washington. After that, game three, with Scherzer hoping to start, will be the difference in the series. With too many questions in the air for Washington, I look for Chicago to carry the momentum from the final two months and win this series.
Prediction: Chicago in four
The other series involves the Wild Card winner, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Arizona holds an offensive advantage over Los Angeles with heart of the order hitters: Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and J.D. Martinez. But the Dodgers have the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, and recent trade acquisition from Texas, Yu Darvish to combat that row of sluggers.
Another clear advantage that the Dodgers hold over the Diamondbacks is in the bullpen. Los Angeles has a series of arms that will match well against Arizona, led by elite closer Kenley Jansen.
The Dodgers hold the pitching advantage here, especially with Arizona’s Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks ace pitcher, having to wait until game three to pitch due to his start in the Wild Card game. I can’t see Arizona pitching well enough to keep pace with what the Dodgers staff will do to the Diamondbacks lineup. Look for Arizona to win game three back at home with Greinke but that should be all they get.