The Nationals return to Washington D.C. looking to continue their pitching dominance and extend their National League Championship Series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals to 3-0, as reported by Bleacher Report.
The starting pitchers for the Nationals have been flawless so far in the series, with both Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer carrying no-hit bids into the latter stages of their respective games. Sanchez and Scherzer’s performances have eased the Nationals’ concerns about their bullpen heading into the series and allowed their lineup to do just enough to win in their 2-0 and 3-1 victories in St. Louis.
Game 3 is likely to be another display of some of the best pitching in the league, with the Cardinals’ ace Jack Flaherty facing off against the Nationals’ Steven Strasburg. Flaherty and Strasburg entered the playoffs as two of the hottest pitchers in the league, with Flaherty boasting a 7-3 record since July with an unimaginable 1.22 ERA, and Strasburg putting up one of the best seasons in his career, going 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. Both continued their fine form in the playoffs, with Strasburg putting together two strong performances against the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Flaherty allowed only four earned runs over the 13 innings he pitched in the Divisional Series against the Atlanta Braves.
While the matchup was expected to be a pitching showcase, it became even more so due to the anemic offenses that both the Nationals and Cardinals have put on display this postseason. While all of the big hitters have been putting up solid numbers so far, with Washington’s Anthony Rendon going 9-for-26 and Trea Turner 10-for-34, and St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna hitting over.300, the hits haven’t been contagious, with the Nationals hitting.226 and the Cardinals hitting.207 so far this postseason. With such strong pitchers taking the mound, it’s unlikely to improve in Game 3, but so far it hasn’t been a necessity, at least for the Nationals.
After their unexpected victory in a thrilling five-game series against the Dodgers, the Nationals showed no signs of slowing down, snatching the first two games on the road in St. Louis and returning home with the chance to put the series out of reach. On the other hand, the Cardinals’ offense looked to have turned the corner after their historic 10-run first inning against the Braves in Game 5 of the divisional series. That obviously hasn’t been the case against the Nationals, leaving the Cardinals desperate for a solid offensive performance if they want to keep their World Series hopes alive.