Cubs vs. Nationals Pick
The Nationals are a -140 favorite to win the series according to oddsmakers at Bovada.lv, while the Cubs are a +110 underdog.
Washington leads the season series 4-3 and the over-under is also 4-3 in those seven games. The most recent series came at Wrigley Field from August 4-6 when the Nationals won two out of three games, outscoring the Cubs by a count of 17-13.
Neither team has announced a starter for game one, with the Cubs likely leaning toward Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53 ERA). The Nationals almost certainly would have gone with Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51), but his availability is in question after suffering a hamstring strain his last start of the regular season. Scherzer said Tuesday to media that he fully intends to pitch in the NLDS. But for game one, the likely Washington starter will be Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52), who has been on a fantastic stretch the past couple months. Also in the Cubs rotation are Jon Lester (13-8, 4.33), John Lackey (12-12, 4.59) and Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.03). Mike Montgomery (6-7, 3.38) is also a candidate to start, but is more likely to worth out of the bullpen. The Nationals' rotation is rounded out by Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96) and Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67).
The Cubs' offense is led by Kris Bryant (.946 OPS, 29 HRs, 71 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.899 OPS, 32 HRs, 109 RBIs) and Willson Contreras (.855 OPS, 21 HRs, 74 RBIs). Washington is paced by Anthony Rendon (.937 OPS, 25 HRs, 100 RBIs), Bryce Harper (1.008 OPS, 29 HRs, 87 RBIs), Ryan Zimmerman (.930 OPS, 36 HRs, 108 RBIs), Daniel Murphy (.928 OPS, 23 HRs, 93 RBIs) and Trea Turner (.789 OPS, 11 HRs, 45 RBIs, 46 SB).
Chicago's bullpen is highlighted by Wade Davis (2.30 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 32 saves), Carl Edwards Jr. (2.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 25 holds) and Pedro Strop (2.83 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 21 holds). The Nationals bullpen features Sean Doolittle (2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 21 saves), Matt Albers (1.62 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 14 holds), Ryan Madson (1.83 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 25 holds) and Brandon Kintzler (3.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 29 saves, 10 holds).
Right when the Nationals got healthy again, aside from having lost Adam Eaton for the season way back in April, another injury strikes with Scherzer injuring his hamstring. He says he'll pitch this series, but if it's already bumped back there is clear reason to believe he might not be at his best. Strasburg will be the pitcher who gets two starts if it goes to a full five games, which is a pretty darn good alternative if you are the Nationals. Here is how the Cubs can avoid that fifth game: win it in four. Even if Strasburg takes care of business in the series opener, the Cubs could get the split in game two against either a less than 100 percent Scherzer or Gonzalez. As for Gonzalez, he's starting to regress after pitching with everything seemingly going right for him most of the season. Roark is a vulnerable fourth pitcher for Washington, stacking up no better than even against what the Cubs will offer. Pitching has been an issue for Chicago all year, but it seems to be in decent shape going into the postseason with Lester pitching well recently and Arrieta enjoying a strong second half. If someone like Hendricks or Lackey steps up with a big start, that could tilt the series in Chicago's direction. The offenses are about even in terms of "mashability", while the bullpens stack up similarly as well. We like the defending World Series champions in this series against a franchise that has failed to live up to postseason expectations in recent years.
MLB NLDS PREDICTION: CHICAGO CUBS IN FOUR GAMES