As Nationals fans try to contain their excitement about postseason baseball being played in Washington for the first time in 79 years, the Washington Nationals (1-1) are heading home to take on the St. Louis Cardinals (1-1) for the remainder of the National League Division Series.
The series is tied 1-1 after a pretty wild first two games. In game one of the series, the Nationals completed an improbable comeback, winning 3-2 after an unusual performance by Gio Gonzalez. Gio walked seven hitters in five innings, earning both of the Cardinals two runs. He was ultimately rescued by Tyler Moore, whose go-ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth led the Nationals to their first ever postseason victory.
The Nats didn’t fare as well in their second game of the series, getting pounded in a 12-4 loss after another uncharacteristically bad outing by one of their best starters, Jordan Zimmermann. In three innings, Zimmermann allowed five earned runs on seven hits. Overall, the Nats pitching staff allowed 13 hits in that game, four of which were homeruns. The Nats’ bats answered back with 10 hits and two home runs of their own, but leaving 18 men on base proved detrimental to the outcome of the game.
One of the Nationals biggest strengths of the season, their starting pitching, hasn’t yet shown itself in this series. If their pitching performs up to the standard it has all season throughout the rest of the NLDS, the Nationals have a great chance at winning it.
Home field advantage
With the series tied, it leaves the Nats with the necessary task of winning two out of three games at home, a feat they have accomplished consistently all year. The Nationals posted one of the best home records in baseball this season (50-31), and won 11 of 16 three-game series played at home.
The Nationals batted .267 at home during the regular season, and their on-base plus slugging percentage was .762, versus hitting .256 at away ball parks with a .738 OPS. They also hit 101 home runs at Nationals Park, eight more than they hit on the road, and they struck out an astonishing 131 fewer times when at home (597 home, 728 away).
The Nationals will try to monopolize on the differences in those numbers, and put on a good show for their fans in their home park.
“They don’t call it home-field advantage for nothing,” Ryan Zimmerman said, according to the Washington Post.
Perfecting the pitching
Referencing the Cardinals and their strong offensive performance on Monday, Davey Johnson said, with a grin, “I hope I never see this offense again,” according to MLB.com. Nationals pitchers don’t want to see it either, and they will be aiming to shut it down over the next two games at home.
Edwin Jackson will take the mound first, facing off against Chris Carpenter in the Nats’ postseason home opener. Jackson has pitched against the Cardinals twice this year, in two starts that were polar opposites.
On August 30 he pitched eight shutout innings and struck out 10 batters, while giving up just four hits and two walks. About a month later, Jackson faced his former team again, and labored through his worst start of the season. He recorded only one out in the second inning before getting pulled from the game. He allowed eight earned runs that day (one unearned) on four walks, six hits and a home run.
Luckily for the Nationals, the better of those two starts happened at Nationals Park. As a rule, Jackson has pitched much better at home this year than he has away. In 99.1 innings pitched at home, he has a 3.35 ERA with a .231 batting average against, versus a 4.78 ERA and a .259 batting average against in 90.1 innings away. He has allowed only 9 home runs in Nationals Park (14 away) and has struck out 93 (75 away).
Pitching at home will also benefit Ross Detwiler, whose stats follow a similar pattern to Jackson’s. Detwiler’s 2.59 home ERA is drastically lower than his 4.38 away ERA, and he holds a .800 wining percentage at home (8-2) compared to a .250 percentage away (2-6).
Their teammates can take comfort in these numbers going into the home series, as they try to overpower the challenging Cardinals.
In the opinion of Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, if the Nats can beat the Cardinals, they will not face a tougher opponent the rest of the postseason. So, if the Nationals play the game like they are capable of playing it, and can out-match St. Louis, they have a chance at pushing further into the postseason.
- Kyle Lohse earned the win for the Cardinals in the Wild Card game against the Atlanta Braves on Friday. He pitched 5.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and one home run with six strikeouts.
- Chris Carpenter is 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 postseason starts.
Allen Craig (OF) .385 AVG, .385 OBP, .769 SLG, 1 HR (in 13 postseason at-bats)
Carlos Beltran (OF) .333 AVG, .429 OBP, .833 SLG, 2 HR (in 12 postseason at-bats)
Jon Jay (OF) .167 AVG, .214 OBP, .333 SLG, 3 SO (in 12 postseason at-bats)
Pete Kozma (SS) .111 AVG, .333 OBP, .222 SLG, 4 SO (in nine postseason at-bats)
Game 3: Edwin Jackson (10-11, 4.03 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71)
Game 4: Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA)
Game 5: TBD (if necessary)
*stats listed are from regular season
Game 3: Wednesday, 1:07 p.m., MLB Network
Game 4: Thursday, 4:07 p.m., TBS
Game 5: Friday, 8:37 p.m., TBS (if necessary)