The Milwaukee Brewers (89-73) will play the Washington Nationals (93-69) in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night with the Dodgers organization looking intensely with a preferred result. The general consensus from the Dodgers’ fan base and baseball logic both have the Milwaukee Brewers as the preferred NLDS opponent. We will find out tonight who the Dodgers will play, but the Nationals are the heavy favorite heading in.
From 5/24 onward, the @Nationals led the NL in runs scored (654).
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 1, 2019
Still, anything can happen in a one-game playoff. Anything goes in October.
The Nationals are an excellent baseball team, and simply put, one the Dodgers should have genuine fear in facing. Sure, the Dodgers are the best team in the National League, but underdogs win at a much higher rate in the Division Series than the League Championship Series due to the nature of it being a best-of-five. Add that in with the way the Nationals pitching staff is constructed — conducive to short-series success — it is far from a sure thing that the Dodgers take care of the Nationals with ease.
They lost Bryce Harper this off-season to the Phillies, but they still have MVP-candidate (and potential future Dodger) Anthony Rendon and sophomore sensation Juan Soto in tow. Adam Eaton, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Robles, and Howie Kendrick are all formidable bats. Mixed in with the three-headed monster of ‘Mad’ Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, they have a solid core.
Let’s take a deeper look at the Washington Nationals and how they could stack up against the Dodgers should they emerge victorious on Tuesday night.
On the season, the Nationals’ starting pitching corps has been one of the best in baseball, despite being dragged down somewhat by their fourth and fifth starters. Altogether, they have produced a 3.53 ERA, which is second in the majors behind the Dodgers’ 3.11 ERA mark.
They will be sending perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer to the mound, but should the Nationals jump out to an early lead, he might get preserved for a potential Game 2 or 3 start.
In addition to Scherzer (2.48 DRA), Washington is expected to roll out Stephen Strasburg (2.13 DRA), Patrick Corbin (3.09 DRA), and Anibal Sanchez (4.39 DRA).
This is definitely a rotation to fear as it rivals the best in the game.
The Nationals’ bullpen put together a regular season of an NL-worst 5.68 ERA. For reference, the second-worst bullpen in the NL was the Rockies’, a team with Coors Field as their home ballpark. This could easily be the Nationals’ downfall in October considering how integral a reliable bullpen is to winning in the postseason. Their bullpen got marginally better in the second half, posting a 5.24 ERA. In September alone, their bullpen ERA was 4.62. Not great.
The Nationals’ best reliever is former Dodger Daniel Hudson, who has put up a 1.44 ERA since being traded to Washington from Toronto. Sean Doolittle has been elite in past seasons as the Nats’ closer, but he held a 5.08 xFIP on the season.
The Nationals have a pretty solid lineup. Their Wild Card lineup is typically the lineup they roll out against righties:
BURG Sports followers don’t forget to tune in on TBS to see our local Washington Nationals take on the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card game tonight at 8pm @MLB
— BURG Sports Network (@BURGSportsnet) October 1, 2019
Speedster Trea Turner batted .298 this season and stole 35 bags in 122 games. Adam Eaton had his first healthy season in quite some time, posting a 108 wRC+ on the season. Anthony Rendon has been in MVP talks with his 154 wRC+, but went ice cold in September. Juan Soto said ‘screw the sophomore slump’ and put up a .949 OPS and 4.8 WAR.
Former Dodger Howie Kendrick has been amazing this season, batting a whopping .344 in 121 games played. To round out the lineup, waiver claim addition Asdrubal Cabrera has put up a 145 wRC+ with Washington, catcher Kurt Suzuki has some punch for a catcher with a 105 wRC+, and Victor Robles is a capable bat albeit with a 91 wRC+.
The Nationals could easily give the Dodgers trouble in the NLDS. It certainly would not be a slam dunk of a win and it could very easily be a series that goes five games if the Nationals’ bullpen and bats can hold their own. Until then, get to know the Milwaukee Brewers, the other potential opponent for Los Angeles.