It was confirmed a short-time ago that the Nationals ordering of their starters in this 2017 NLDS would go from Stephen Strasburg tonight to Gio Gonzalez tomorrow and Max Scherzer for game #3. Only elimination games are a “must win”, but this game #1 tonight definitely feels like a “must win” given what we know about Max Scherzer whose hamstring tweak a week ago was a little more than that and he won’t pitch now until Monday. Gio Gonzalez who has a 5.47 ERA over his last 5 starts has looked like a fading image of the once resurrected lefty who became a legitimate Cy Young candidate a month ago based on what we saw in the first 5 months of the season. They say that the winner of the first game of a Division Series has better than 70% odds of winning the series, and it makes sense. The loser of tonight’s game will feel a pressure switch while the winner moves into the driver’s seat.
The Nationals have the best pitcher in the National League since the All-Star break pitching tonight in Stephen Strasburg. His miniscule 0.86 ERA could be even better if the defense behind him performed better according to advanced statistical analysis like his DIPS which was 1.97 to Corey Kluber‘s 2.47. It is interesting how things work out because Strasburg is the best statistical choice to start game #1 tonight for the Nationals even if Max Scherzer was healthy. A similar debate was at-hand in 2014 when Strasburg started ahead of Jordan Zimmermann who was statistically better.
The Cubs go with their hottest pitcher in Kyle Hendricks who has also had a good second half. The Vegas line if you believe in that method has the Nationals winning by 1.2 runs, and certainly we play the games and hope Strasburg can pitch to his second half ERA which is what Dusty Baker and the team needs tonight.
Both teams configured their rosters similarly with 11 pitchers and 14 position players. Each manager made some interesting moves with their final players to add to their roster. Joe Maddon of the Cubs and Dusty Baker of the Nationals seem to have had their share of managerial gamesmanship in the past with Maddon almost going to an extreme in regular season games where he will try to exploit players and pick on the weak links. In regular season games, Dusty Baker never appeared to play the Cubs like those games had a higher level of importance which makes this game 1 even more intriguing to see what Dusty has up his sleeves.
That’s the roster Dusty Baker will work from and he has chosen his starters and ordering for tonight that looks very strategic.
Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:30 pm EDT
TV: TBS, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® XM 89 Sirius 209 (Internet 869)
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 6, 2017