With the Wild Card round behind us, the postseason is now in full swing. As the AL and NL Division Series start up, one of the most anticipated match-ups will begin on Friday between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals. The defending World Champion Cubs will continue their quest to defend their crown, as they look to steal game 1 from Washington. The Nationals, for their part, look to continue their hunt for that elusive first title.
NLDS Game 1 Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals
Before announcing Hendricks as their Game 1 starter, the Cubs struggled to set their postseason rotation. Jake Arrieta was ruled out of the Game 1 conversation because of his hamstring injury back in September. Jon Lester‘s struggles to throw over to first base have made him too much of a liability to give him the starting job. Lester had only recorded one pick off in 2017. This left Hendricks to take the ball in Game 1. The Cubs hope he can continue his postseason dominance.
Hendricks finished the 2017 season with a 3.03 ERA, but his success in the postseason last year earned him the nod to start Game 1 of the NLDS this year. Hendricks beat Los Angeles Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw to clinch the NLCS and send the Cubs to the World Series last year. In that series-clinching Game 6, Hendricks went 7.1 innings with six strikeouts and only allowed two hits. Chicago will be leaning on Hendricks’s postseason dominance as they look to go up 1-0 and steal home field advantage from the Nationals.
Strasburg will face off against Hendricks in replacement of Max Scherzer. Scherzer suffered his own hamstring injury during his last regular season start, which means he wouldn’t be available before Game 3 of the LDS round. Strasburg finished the season with a 2.52 ERA and 209 strikeouts. There is always a looming concern with Strasburg, as his health has been an issue. He’s only pitched in one postseason game, against the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Even though he lost to San Francisco, he was able to keep his team in the game. Through five innings, he gave up eight hits, but only allowed one earned run and a walk while picking up two strikeouts.
While we do have what appears to be a premier pitching match-up, this game should turn into a battle of the bullpens. With Washington’s additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, the Nationals have an advantage closing out games; the Cubs need to out-slug the Nationals if they hope to avoid the Madson-Doolittle duo.
While 31 runs crossed the plate between the two Wild Card games, expect the pitching to tighten up in the Division Series. Don’t be surprised if the Nationals take Game 1 at home.