[ed. note - “We submitted the following blurb to the SB Nation’s Chicago Cubs site, Bleed Cubbie Blue for them to use in their series preview. You can read their entire preview below. Here’s what we told them we were thinking about as the Nationals and Cubs start the NLDS. Also, note that we had to send this in early, so it may be somewhat outdated by the time you read it...”]
A week ago, a lot of my confidence about the Nationals’ chances of success revolved around the 1-2 punch in their rotation with right-handed starters Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg going in the first two games. Right now the Nationals are talking about when Scherzer is going to start after he tweaked his hamstring last Saturday.
Don’t bring up the word “tweak” with Joe Maddon again, please.
We know now, as of this afternoon, that it’s going to be Stephen Strasburg in Game 1 and all signs point towards Gio Gonzalez in Game 2 though the Nationals didn’t make Gonzalez’s outing official today.
Scherzer didn’t throw a bullpen, however, which he’d planned on throwing but didn’t in the last two days with Dusty Baker explaining that the team decided to push it back.
Maybe Maddon was right to not trust all the tweak talk that followed Scherzer’s injury.
On the offensive end, I’m expecting Bryce Harper, who finally barreled a few up in the regular season finale, to rise to the occasion after working hard to return from what I thought was a season-ending knee injury on the night he slipped on first base back on August 12th.
His timing, as expected, wasn’t there when he did return to the lineup late last month, but the Nationals, who were actually still pretty good without him, need him hitting in the heart of the lineup if they’re going to go far this Fall in my opinion.
Scherzer and Harper are the big questions for me. I think Strasburg is going to be properly motivated to do something special after missing out on two of the Nats’ three postseason runs.
Having him available, and more importantly, starting Game 1 in what was expected to be Scherzer’s start, is huge.