Home Baseball NLCS Preview: Nationals and Cardinals Win in Style

NLCS Preview: Nationals and Cardinals Win in Style

by Aaron Mullins

This past Thursday night gave both Cardinals and Nationals fans something to smile about. With their backs against the wall facing elimination games, both teams stepped up, in entirely different ways.  The Cardinals made history by scoring 10 runs in the first inning, completely shattering the Braves hopes of moving on to the next round. The Nationals on the other hand were able to hit back to back home runs on Clayton Kershaw and then got magic with Howie Kendrick hitting a go-ahead Grand Slam in the 10th inning to move on to the NLCS.

Neither team were favored to move on, but they each find themselves just 4 wins away from the World Series. How do they stack up? Let’s take a look.

Starting Pitching

The St. Louis Cardinals were phenomenal in their series against the Braves. While Jack Flaherty has emerged as the ace of the staff, we must give some props to Adam Wainwright who pitched a gem in game 3 to the tune of 7.2 innings and zero runs allowed while surrendering just 4 hits. Cardinals starters had an ERA of just 1.78 in the NLDS. While the Cardinals may not have the names that the Nationals have, they have certainly gotten production.

Washington is highlighted by three of the best pitchers in baseball. Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg are all set to recieve Cy Young votes and rightfully so. In their series against LA, Nationals starters were able to keep the Dodgers at bay for the most part. Washington also employed many of their starters in multiple games allowing them to get an inning or two of work on days they didn’t start. Whether they continue to use their pitchers like this is yet to be seen.

It’s tough to choose between either team based on recent success for both. For me it’s a wash.

Bullpen

As a whole the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been one of the best in the National League. Their relief ERA of 3.82 was second in the NL behind only the Dodgers at 3.78. They saw the emergence of Giovanny Gallegos who was one of the pieces in the Luke Voit trade with the Yankees last July. Gallegos had a 2.31 ERA during the regular season while sporting a WHIP of just 0.81 to go along with it. He was very good at limiting baserunners while also showcasing swing and miss stuff. Gallegos struck out 11.3 batters per 9 innings while allowing less than 2 walks per 9. The Cardinals were also able to get production out of John Gant, John Brebbia, and Carlos Martinez giving the Cardinals a dangerous bullpen for the Postseason.

The Nationals on the other hand didn’t have the best production from their bullpen in the regular season. They had a league worst relief ERA of 5.66 and a league worst BAA of .266. Their most productive reliever was Daniel Hudson who put together a solid season in a limited amount of innings. Unfortunately for the Nationals, most of their relievers were average to ineffective on the year. Outside of Hudson they only had one reliever on the year with an ERA under 4 in Tanner Rainey.

The Cardinals have a clear edge when it comes to the bullpen, but there are still questions regarding closer Carlos Martinez and his ability to stay calm and collected under pressure. The Braves Ronald Acuna was able to cause quite a stir for Martinez in the NLDS.

Offense

Despite a historic 10 run first inning in the NLDS Game 5 against Atlanta, the St. Louis offense does leave much to be desired. The Cardinals have gotten production from both Paul Goldschmidt and Marcel Ozuna thus far in the Postseason and hopefully that continues. The emergence of Tommy Edman has certainly made things interesting for St. Louis with the disappointing season from Matt Carpenter. Edman has shown the ability to hit to all parts of the field and can play multiple positions. Kolten Wong has also shown improvements at the plate to go along with top-notch defense. As a whole, this Cardinals team is more about run prevention than run production.

Washington is able to boast multiple top notch hitters in Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and Trea Turner. Rendon is in the conversation to receive NL MVP votes and he is well deserved. He led the NL in RBI’s and had a 1.010 OPS on the year as well. Another hitter that is getting attention is Howie Kendrick, who put together a strong year with a .966 OPS over 334 at bats. He’s probably more known for hitting a go ahead grand slam in game 5 against Los Angeles, cementing the Nationals into the NLCS.

The Nationals clearly have the edge offensively and it will be up to the Cardinals pitching staff to keep them at bay.

Wrap Up and Predictions

On paper these teams are very evenly matched. The Cardinals have improved their defense and bullpen from a year ago and are good at preventing runs, and although they lost Bryce Harper, the Nationals didn’t skip a beat and are a menace in the National League.

I do think a strong bullpen is key in this series and St. Louis has the clear advantage. I think it’ll be St. Louis in 6.

What are your thoughts? Send me a tweet @AaronMSTL

Thanks for Reading

Aaron M.

 

 

 

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