The Cardinals had a chance to bury their division rivals, the Christian Yelich-less Milwaukee Brewers. They found themselves in a position to establish themselves as the true frontrunner for the National League Central race. The Cardinals hopes for dominance were crushed by Ryan Braun’s ninth inning grand slam off of rookie Junior Fernandez.
St. Louis was bit by the hand that had been feeding them all of 2019. Their young bullpen arms were not able to handle the late inning situations as they had previously the entire season. The Cardinals still sit two games up on the second place Chicago Cubs and three games up on the aforementioned Milwaukee Brewers. The redbirds have a very interesting clash in front of them against the uber talented and desperate Washington Nationals.
Oh, they also get to face the murderer’s row of starting pitching Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer.
St. Louis will counter Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright. Comparing the overall starting pitching is an obvious advantage to the Nationals. Washington comes into this series with a 6-8 record in September including getting smashed by the Atlanta Braves which has all but ended their chances at the eastern division crown. Both teams are in a must win situation the rest of the season. The Cubs and Brewers are both hot on their heels ready to take over their positions at the top.
The Cardinals will have the advantage in the bullpen which in a playoff like atmosphere Mike Schildt will have to be ready to make the move before it is too late. The Nationals have a powerful offense that can turn a one run lead into a four-run lead before you know it. Schildt will have his first real playoff like atmosphere at Busch, Cardinals fans will find out if he is the one that will take them to the next step.
The Nationals have the superior depth in their lineup with bench players like Howie Kendrick, Gerardo Parra and Matt Adams. They can put out multiple lineups that will be tough to matchup against over a three games series. The key for St. Louis will be to get ahead early and force the Nationals to utilize their subpar bullpen. If the Cardinals can get a lead it will also allow Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright to attack the zone. They are pitch to contact pitchers, it can be an advantage for them to have the freedom to throw in the zone and not worry about one long ball putting them behind.
Who has the advantage?
Starters- Advantage Nationals
Bullpen- Advantage Cardinals
Offense- Advantage Nationals
My series prediction.
In game one St. Louis will need to a strong performance in game one from Dakota Hudson, if he can give them a solid six innings and keep the ball in the ballpark it can set them up for the rest of the series. Strasburg is a vaunting task for any offense but is hittable when off, it is going to be hot for game one so the ball should be taking off and the usual pitcher friendly Busch Stadium. Cardinals take game one 4-3.
Game two is a much more even matchup with Mile Mikolas taking on Patrick Corbin. Corbin’s one start versus St. Louis he was erratic in the strike zone, walking four over his six innings. Corbin has the stuff to shut down the Cardinals but with St. Louis’s heavy right-handed lineup they should have the advantage. Mikolas on the other hand found himself at home against the Nationals, giving up seven hits over six innings but only one run. This game will come down to who is the first to fold. Cardinals take game two by getting to Corbin early, Cardinals win 7-3.
Game three is simple. Scherzer in St. Louis will dominate. Cardinals will scratch across a run early, but it won’t be enough. Soto and Rendon will punish Wainwright in the first and the third. Nationals win the game but lose the series. Nationals 8-2.