The St. Louis Cardinals have scored one (unearned) run off the first three starters that the Washington Nationals have sent out in the NLCS, with Aníbal Sánchez (7 2⁄3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER), Max Scherzer (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER), and Stephen Strasburg (7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER), dominating the first three games of the best-of-seven series.
Through the first three games, the Cardinals have scored two runs total, something Cards’ skipper Mike Shildt said after last night’s loss he didn’t expect coming into the series.
“You play these guys with that pitching, you’re going to be in for typically a low-scoring situation,” Shildt told reporters, “but I’ve got to say this. As we tip our hat, we’ve also got to say that we didn’t expect to be -- [to] have scored two runs in three games by any stretch of the imagination. Like I said, we respect our opponent. These guys have done a great job of pitching. They’ve had a good game plan. They’ve executed their game plan, but by no means did we have anywhere close to the expectation that we would be pretty much shut down.”
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said before Game 3 that the Nationals, obviously, were built around starting pitching, with Sánchez and Patrick Corbin added to the mix this winter, joining Scherzer and Strasburg in a rotation that’s kept them in the fight in spite of the way the season started, with a 19-31 record after 50 games.
“We believe in starting pitching. That’s where it all starts. [GM Mike Rizzo] did a great job of getting the guys we have now. They keep us in ball games. That’s how it all starts.”
After Strasburg followed Sánchez and Scherzer with the third consecutive solid start, the second-year manager was asked if he’d ever seen a rotation as dominant as the Nationals’ staff is right now.
“These guys, they started with Sánchez, Scherzer, and now tonight Stras, they’re feeding off each other, they really are, and it’s fun to watch,” Martinez said.
How do they feed off each other? Is it just friendly competition? Is there more to it?
“They sit there, and they watch, and they talk, and they communicate,” Martinez explained, “... and they get together, and they’re going over what they’ve done that helped them get successful that day. Then the next guy comes up. Even though Scherzer and Stras are hard, and Sánchez ... they watch. They watch videos, and then they go out and they compete.
“They compete every day, and they compete amongst themselves. Like I said, it’s a lot of fun.”
When he says “they watch videos” together, a reporter asked, do they really gather around the computer and watch together-together?
“Yeah, they sit down, and they communicate, yeah,” Martinez said.
“This is an unbelievably close group of guys, and they’re all -- you know, they pull for each other. They all stand there and watch the first pitch. They don’t miss each other’s first pitch of the game, and they’re watching everything, and they’re learning from one another.”
Is the relationship among the Nationals’ starters unique?
“These guys -- like I said, these guys, they’ve been good all year, and they’ve been behind each other all year, and when one guy seems to fail, I’ve never heard -- they all congregate again, and they sit, and they get right back after it, and they pick him up.
“They say, ‘Here we go. Next start, we’re right there. Here we go.’ It’s been a lot of fun.”
Corbin, who inked a 6-year/$140M free agent deal this winter, said the appeal of joining a rotation that included Scherzer, Strasburg, and Sánchez when he signed, had a lot to do with his decision.
“I remember sitting in this room with [Scherzer and Strasburg] right up here in front,” he said, referring to his introductory press conference in D.C. last winter, “... and that was definitely a big reason — to be part of a rotation like that. And Aníbal has been amazing all year for us, as well. When you have starting pitchers that can go out there and pitch deep in a ball game, keep us close with the offense that we do have with some veterans and some young guys, it seemed like a good fit, a team that wanted to win and had the guys here to win.
“Obviously, beginning of the season wasn’t the way we wanted it to go, but we had a feeling in here that things would turn around at some point. There’s too many good players in this clubhouse to not play well.”
With a 74-38 record after the 19-31 start, and a 7-2 mark so far in the postseason, the Nats are one win away from a trip to the World Series going into Corbin’s outing tonight in the nation’s capital.