The Washington Nationals did not exactly enjoy the company of the Los Angeles Dodgers this year -- Los Angeles took five out of the six games the two teams played.
Unfortunately for Washington, they'll be forced to play Los Angeles yet again, and this time with much higher stakes; the Dodgers and the Nats will kick off the National League Division Series in Washington this evening.
To start the series, it'll be Clayton Kershaw against Max Scherzer at Nationals Park, an opportunity Scherzer is excited for.
"It's what you play this game for," Scherzer said. "You don't measure yourself against the worst; you measure yourself against the best. And I think this is the best opponent I could possibly face with the Dodgers and Kershaw throwing."
Kershaw was equally excited to face off against Scherzer.
"(Scherzer) had an amazing year this year," Kershaw told the media in his pre-NLDS press conference. "You know we've got our hands full, for sure."
The Dodgers have one significant advantage over the Nats -- the Nationals are the most injured they've been almost all season heading into the NLDS, while the Dodgers are, for the most part, healthy.
Daniel Murphy, although good to go for Game 1, is going to play his first game since coming back from a buttocks injury, and Bryce Harper may still be nursing a sore thumb.
Meanwhile, both Stephen Strasburg and Wilson Ramos won't play in the NLDS at all, due to a strained flexor mass in the right forearm, and a torn ACL, respectively.
Due to Ramos' absence, Pedro Severino will get the nod behind the plate for Game 1.
"In most scenarios, having a rookie catcher behind the plate, you probably have cause for concern of not being in sync with him," said Max Scherzer. "But Severino is completely different... he's way more mature and understands the game way further than any rookie catcher I've been around. He gets it."
However, Dodgers' Manager Dave Roberts thinks that, as far as things go, his club has gotten lucky with when they have to face off against the Nats.
"I feel good about where we're at. If we're playing our type of baseball, I think we can beat anybody. But yeah, I think we're catching them at the right time," Roberts said.
On the offensive side of things, Trea Turner will play in his first playoff series, which is something Roberts' club will focus on.
"I think a big part of our success will be keeping Trea Turner off the bases," Roberts said.
For the Dodgers, Corey Seager will play in his second playoff season, coming off a campaign that most consider to be worthy of the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Seager hit .308 this regular season with 72 RBI -- and in last year's playoffs, Seager hit .188.
This time around, Seager expects to have more of a positive impact.
"I know what to expect," said Seager, as quoted by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "Right now, I'm just more comfortable, and that will be the biggest difference."
Tanner Roark and Rich Hill will start Game 2 for the Nationals and Dodgers respectively, and will then hand off the ball on Wednesday to Gio Gonzalez and Kenta Maeda. Roark should be able to match what Hill is able to do -- but Gonzalez is more of an open book, although he did go six innings and gave up only one run against the Dodgers earlier this season. After that, the pitching matchups have not been announced.
There's no good way to predict the outcome of a playoff series -- what worked all season can fly out the window -- there's a reason that MLB likes the saying 'Heroes are made in October' so much. Even so, beating Clayton Kershaw, in the playoffs or not, is pretty difficult -- as is beating Rich Hill. The Dodgers look stronger coming into this series, and definitely have somewhat of an upper hand.
Despite all this, there's no real way to know, or predict -- all we can do is watch. If Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark can match Kershaw and Hill, or come close, then anything could happen.
Game 1 (Washington) - 5:38 PM - FS1, ESPN Radio: Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (20-7, 2.96 ERA)
Game 2 (Washington) - 4:08 PM - FS1, ESPN Radio: Rich Hill (3-2, 1.83 ERA) vs Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA)
Game 3 (Los Angeles) - TBD - MLB Network, ESPN Radio: Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57 ERA) vs Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48 ERA)