Thursday, October 05, 2017 1:00 am
NL Division Series: Cubs-Nationals preview
Schedule: Game 1, Friday, at Washington, 7:31 p.m.; Game 2, Saturday, at Washington, 5:38 p.m.; Game 3, Monday, at Chicago, TBA; x-Game 4, Tuesday, at Chicago, TBA; x-Game 5, Oct. 12, at Washington. (All games on TBS).
Season Series: Nationals won 4-3.
Cubs: CF Ian Happ (.253, 24 HRs, 68 RBI) or Jon Jay (.296, 2, 34, .374 OBP) or 2B-OF Ben Zobrist (.232, 12, 50), 3B Kris Bryant (.295, 29, 73, .409 OBP), 1B Anthony Rizzo (.273, 32, 109, .392 OBP), C Willson Contreras (.276, 21, 74), LF Kyle Schwarber (.211, 30, 59, 150 Ks), SS Addison Russell (.239, 12, 43), RF Jason Heyward (.259, 11, 59), 2B Javier Baez (.273, 23, 75).
Nationals: SS Trea Turner (.284, 11, 45, 46 SBs), RF Bryce Harper (.319, 29, 87), 3B Anthony Rendon (.301, 25, 100, 41 doubles, 84 walks, 82 Ks), 2B Daniel Murphy (.322, 23, 93, NL-best 43 doubles), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36, 108, 33 doubles, career-high .573 slugging percentage), LF Jayson Werth (.226, 10, 29 in 70 games) or Howie Kendrick (.315, 9, 41 in 91 games with Phillies and Nationals), C Matt Wieters (.225, 10, 52), CF Michael A. Taylor (.271, 19, 53).
Cubs: RH Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.03 ERA; 2.19 in 13 starts after All-Star break), LH Jon Lester (13-8, 4.33, 180 Ks in 1802/3 IP), LH Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.15 with White Sox and Cubs), RH Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53).
Nationals: RH Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52, 204 Ks in 1751/3 IP), RH Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51, NL-high 268 Ks in 2002/3 IP, 6th straight season with 200 Ks), LH Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96, 79 BBs and 188 Ks in 201 IP), RH Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67).
Cubs: RH Wade Davis (4-2, 2.30, 32/33 saves), LH Brian Duensing (1-1, 2.74), RH Pedro Strop (5-4, 2.83), RH Carl Edwards Jr. (5-4, 2.98), LH Mike Montgomery (7-8, 3.38, 44 games, 14 starts, 3 saves), RH Hector Rondon (4-1, 4.24), RH John Lackey (12-12, 4.59, 31 games, 30 starts), LH Justin Wilson (4-4, 3.41, 13 saves with Tigers and Cubs; 5.09 in 23 appearances for Cubs), RH Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.53).
Nationals: LH Sean Doolittle (2-0, 2.81, career-high 24/26 saves for Athletics and Nationals), RH Ryan Madson (5-4, 1.83, 2 saves for Athletics and Nationals), RH Brandon Kintzler (4-3, 3.03, career-high 29/35 saves for Twins and Nationals), RH Matt Albers (7-2, 1.62, 63 appearances), LH Oliver Perez (0-0, 4.64, 50 appearances).
Nationals manager Dusty Baker faces one of his former teams; he managed Cubs from 2003-06, with one playoff appearance during that span. That came in 2003, which featured the “Steve Bartman” game at Wrigley Field and a heartbreaking loss to Marlins in NLCS. ... Nationals outscored Cubs 39-28 in head-to-head meetings this season. ... ERA for Cubs starters jumped by more than a run from major league-best 2.96 last year to 4.05 this season, which ranked seventh. ... Lester looked sharp while winning final two starts, giving up one run over 11 innings. He posted 8.22 ERA in previous five outings. ... Arrieta skipped regular-season finale against Cincinnati to rest strained right hamstring. He was hurt Sept. 4, did not pitch again until Sept. 21 and went three innings vs. St. Louis in second-shortest outing of season. Arrieta was 6-1 with 1.59 ERA in first nine starts following All-Star break. ... Davis set franchise record by converting first 32 save chances before giving up winning 10th-inning homer to Milwaukee's Travis Shaw on Sept. 23. ... Rizzo tied for eighth in majors in RBI. ... Bryant hit .325 with .421 OBP after All-Star break. Finished season ranked seventh in majors with .409 OBP. ... Zobrist, a three-time All-Star and the 2016 World Series MVP, posted his lowest batting average since .238 for Tampa Bay in 2010. ... Nationals hit a franchise-record 215 homers — 10 players had at least 10 — and scored a club-record 819 runs. Cubs exceeded both those totals with 223 homers and 822 runs. ... Zimmerman enjoyed a real renaissance this year, leading Washington in homers and RBI after having only 15 HRs and 46 RBI during injury-plagued 2016. ... Harper loves the spotlight, as his career playoff power numbers attest: 4 HRs, 7 RBI, .509 slugging percentage in 14 games. ... Strasburg has pitched only five postseason innings in his career, with lone appearance coming in 2014. He was shut down in 2012, then injured last year. He enters these playoffs on quite a streak: 5-1 with 0.84 ERA over last eight regular-season starts.
Cubs: Chicago (92-70) has been there, done that, and comes into postseason without burden of longest championship drought in North American sports. That ended with last year's captivating run to first World Series title since 1908. Now, after reaching playoffs for third straight year under manager Joe Maddon, Cubs eyeing their first championship repeat since 1907-08. ... Cubs went from 103 wins last year to 92 this season and from running away with NL Central to pulling it out in second half of season. Chicago was 43-45 at All-Star break and trailed Milwaukee by 51/2 games, then went 49-25 rest of the way to finish six games ahead of Brewers. ... Cubs are trying to become first team to repeat as World Series champion since New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. ... Chicago is first defending World Series winner to win division since Philadelphia took NL East in 2009. ... Cubs won 15 of 18 before closing regular season with loss to Reds.
Nationals: NL East champions for the fourth time in six years, Nationals (97-65) are still searching for their first playoff series victory since moving to Washington from Montreal before the 2005 season. ... Never faded despite dealing with all sorts of injuries: Four lineup regulars and three starting pitchers spent time on DL. ... Took over first place outright in April, never led by fewer than 10 games from mid-July on, and clinched their weak division by 20 games. So there wasn't any pressure — or much to play for — over the last few months of the regular season. ... Baker has taken Washington to postseason during both his years in charge, but is not under contract beyond 2017. He says the team told him his status will be determined after this season ends. ... Washington's NLDS eliminations in 2012 (against Cardinals), 2014 (Giants) and 2016 (Dodgers) were marked by some so-so hitting and, most infamously the first two times, bad relief pitching. After heading into this season with a muddled situation at back of bullpen, GM Mike Rizzo rebuilt that part of team via July trades, acquiring Doolittle (who has taken over closer's role), Madson (usually used in eighth inning) and Kintzler (usually pitches seventh). ... Nats had better record on road (NL-leading 50-31) than at home (47-34).
Schwarber's time: Sent to the minors after a rough start, Schwarber finished the regular season on a strong note. He hit .311 with six homers in his final 16 games and could once again be a big factor in October. Schwarber has a .364 batting average with five home runs and 10 RBI in 14 postseason games. He set a franchise record with five homers in the 2015 playoffs.
Scherzer's hammy: The two-time Cy Young Award winner left his last regular-season start in the fourth inning after tweaking his right hamstring. While Scherzer insists he will pitch in the NLDS, it's unclear exactly when and how hurt he might be.
Harper's health: The 2015 NL MVP can change a game all by himself with his batting, baserunning or powerful outfield arm. But he missed about a quarter of the season after hyperextending his left knee in August and only returned for five games in the final week, going 3 for 18 without an extra-base hit.
– Associated Press