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2019 NLCS Preview

Oct. 11, 2019 - Nick Shnider

2019 NLCS Preview

2019 NLCS Preview –

 

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals

The 2019 postseason got off to a great start, as three of the four opening round series went to a deciding game.  The St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals both escaped a 2-1 series deficit come back and win in tremendous fashion, advancing to the League Championship Series.  The Cardinals fought the higher seed, tooth and nail, but it appeared that with a 4-3 lead in the 8th inning of game 4, the Atlanta Braves were about to shut the door.  Then, with two outs and their season on the line, Yadier Molina hit a soft liner over the head and just out of the reach of the diving Freddie Freeman, and plated the tying run.  An inning later, Molina completed the comeback with a walk-off sacrifice fly, forcing a Game 5.  The final game of the series was less exciting, as St. Louis jumped all over Atlanta, scoring 10 runs in the opening frame, leading to a 13-1 victory, knocking the NL East champs out of the postseason. 

The Washington Nationals also saw a pretty exciting finish to the league’s opening round, effectively stealing Game 5 from the favored Los Angeles Dodgers.  They were facing elimination in Game 4, which Washington would tell you is something they’ve been doing since May 24, the day they returned home with a record of 19-31 only to face media scrutiny and questions surrounding the manager’s job.  Well it’s clear now, Dave Martinez and the Nationals are no longer that team.  Instead, they’ve turned themselves into the team that is never out of a ballgame, never says die, never gives up and continues to “Stay in the Fight”.  So it was no shock when they rode the heels of an electrifying home crowd to a Game 4 victory, setting the stage for a deciding Game 5.  As advertised, Walker Buehler was nothing short of dominant, allowing just one run, and handing it off the Clayton Kershaw with a 3-1 lead.  In the top of the 8th inning, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto went back-to-back, tying the game in dramatic fashion.  After neither team scored in the 9th, the game went to extras, and in the 10th inning, Howie Kendrick launched a game-winning grand slam over the wall, sending the entire District of Columbia into chaos.  Sean Doolittle closed it out in the bottom half, and the rest is history.

Who will decide the NLCS?  Who steps up in the spotlight?  Who sends their team to the most coveted stage in all of baseball?  For the Cardinals, they’ll surely lean on their experienced vets, like Yadier Molina, Dexter Fowler and Adam Wainwright.  However, they also have one of the best first basemen in the league, in Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcel Ozuna is coming off one of the best Division Series in franchise history.  The Cardinals also have a good starting rotation led by young phenom, Jack Flaherty, a fantastic defense, and a strong bullpen.  Washington on the other hand, has shown their bullpen is not quite as deep.  I think this will be one of the biggest questions throughout this series.  The Nationals have a tough lineup, that features maybe the best 3-4 hitter combo in the league.  They also have a lot of depth on the bench, one that has completely changed the culture of the entire team.  Most importantly, they have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.  Again, one of the deciding factors must be how much Washington will have to use their three-headed monster, something that will depend heavily on the production of not only the lineup, but more notably, the bullpen.