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Don’t count out the Nats for the NL Pennant

Coming off a series win against the Chicago Cubs the Nationals now stand at 65-44 for third best in Major League Baseball behind the Los Angeles Dodgers at 78-32 and the Houston Astros at 71-40.

All assumptions are that the NLCS is going to have to go through Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers. The Dodgers have blown away the competition this year and at the trade deadline they got even better. Acquiring Texas Rangers Ace Yu Darvish who as of today is 7-9 with a 3.81 ERA and a career 3.41 ERA falls in behind the Dodger Ace Clayton Kershaw and is followed by pitchers Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood forms arguably one of the most lethal pitching rotations in baseball. This rotation anchors an All-Star built team with Rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, Logan Forsythe, Corey Seager, Jacob Turner, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor are the presumptive NL representatives in the World Series. When you include closer Kenley Jansen who is having one of the best years a closer has had in the Major Leagues their is no denying they very well could win it all in October.

But, the Nationals are no slouch either. Going into today’s game 4 hitters batting .300 or better in Daniel Murphy (.335), Bryce Harper (.326), Anthony Rendon (.309) and Ryan Zimmerman (.308). The team as a whole is batting third in MLB at .279 with 163 HRS and a .338 OBP for third in the Majors as well. The rotation has suffered immensely with the loss of Joe Ross (Tommy John) and alternated between Tanner Roark, Edwin Jackson, and rookie Erick Fedde to man the 4th and 5th spots has been led by Max Scherzer (2.21 ERA), Stephen Strasburg (3.25 ERA) and Gio Gonzalez (2.66 ERA) as a whole team has pitched to a 4.12 ERA which is 9th in Baseball and 6th in the National League. The Nationals made big moves of their own acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Oakland Athletics to improve their horrible bullpen. Then at the deadline acquired Brandon Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins. With Doolittle the presumptive closer, Madson fell into the 8th inning setup man and Kintzler into the 7th inning setup man. The team had finally locked down the bullpen issues.

The thought of these two meeting again brings back dark memories from last years Game 5 NLDS where the Dodgers beat the Nationals 4-3 with a late game come back at Nationals Park. This has left a very sour taste in the mouth of Nationals fans. Earlier this season the Nationals took 2 out of 3 against the Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium and they have an upcoming meeting in September when the Dodgers return to Nationals Park for the first time since Game 5. The Nationals have scored 589 runs to the Dodgers 561 which averages 5.4 to 5.14.

Assuming the NLCS was today the rotations would line-up as such:

Scherzer v. Kershaw Game 1

Strasburg v. Darvish Game 2

Gonzalez v. Hill Game 3

Roark v. Wood Game 4

Scherzer v. Kershaw Game 5 (If Necessary)

Strasburg v. Darvish Game 6 (If Necessary)

Gonzalez v. Hill Game 7 (If Necessary)

Rotation wise this is almost as dead even as you can get because between all 8 pitchers the ERA is 3.23 for Washington as opposed to Los Angeles 2.91 which gives the Dodgers the advantage.

The Nationals would presumably regain Michael A. Taylor, Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, and maybe by chance Adam Eaton giving the line up edge to the Nationals. The Bench also would favor the Nationals presuming they kept Brian Goodwin, Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind and Wilmer Difo on the playoff roster. The Dodgers bench would be no doubt be anchored by Chase Utley and containing Enrique Hernandez and Austin Barnes wouldn’t be able to compare to the Nationals bench.

Position by Position Matchups also favor the Nationals as such:

1B- Zimmerman (.308 avg, 24 HR, 76 RBI)
2B- Murphy (.335 avg, 19 HR, 76 RBI)
SS- Turner (.279 avg, 7 HR, 32 RBI)
3B- Rendon (.309 avg, 21 HR, 74 RBI)
LF- Goodwin (.240 avg, 12 HR, 28 RBI)
CF- Taylor (.278 avg, 12 HR, 35 RBI)
RF- Harper (.326 avg, 28 HR, 81 RBI)
C- Wieters (.245 avg, 8 HR, 43 RBI)
1B- Bellinger (.263 avg, 31 HR, 73 RBI)
2B- Forsyther (.233 avg, 3 HR, 21 RBI)
SS- Seager (.306 avg, 19 HR, 55 RBI)
3B- Turner (.347 avg, 12 HR, 44 RBI)
LF- Taylor (.314 avg, 15 HR, 53 RBI)
CF- Pederson (.230 avg, 11 HR, 30 RBI)
RF- Puig (.260 avg, 21 HR, 54 RBI)
C- Grandal (.268 avg, 14 HR, 41 RBI)

Bench

Werth: .262 avg, 8HR, 18 RBI
Kendrick: .345 avg, 3 HR, 18 RBI
Lind: .296 avg, 9 HR, 37 RBI
Difo: .265 avg, 4 HR, 16 RBI
Hernandez: .219 avg, 10 HR, 29 RBI
Barnes: .253 avg, 6 HR, 27 RBI
Utley: .240 avg, 7 HR, 29 RBI

Given the Nationals strong line up the issue comes down to the bullpens. While Kenley Jansen is the best closer in MLB at the moment with a 1.33 ERA and 28 saves so far the Nationals Doolittle is the best choice for closer on the team while manager Dusty Baker has gone on record stating he will use Doolittle as Madson and Kintzler in a matchup situation if need be giving the Nationals a very strong 7th, 8th, and 9th inning pitching staff.

So while the Dodgers have become the favorable team to win the World Series don’t count out the Washington Nationals just yet. The NLCS will surely go through Washington D.C. in a series to remember…….

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Corey Parkinson

Staff Writer
Corey grew up a sports fanatic and an athlete. A baseball player up until he was 18, his passion and love for the game has remained unchanged. From the time he was five if it involved a ball that you threw or kicked, Corey was all in. His passion for journalism began at the age of 10 when he wrote a play about a World Series involving the Seattle Mariners and The New York Mets. As a Sports Media and Marketing major currently at Full Sail University, Corey is working his way to becoming an MLB beat writer. Writing for SoMuchSports.com has given him the platform to share his knowledge and passion for sports and primarily his undying love for baseball.

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