NDLS Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) vs Washington Nationals (98-64)

The Nats lost 102 and 103 games in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and improved to 69-93 in 2010. Last year they finished the year with a 80-81 record, which was a marked improvement. Still, it's tough to read too much into a team whose leader in rWAR was a relief pitcher (Tyler Clippard). There was no doubt about it this year though. The Nationals led the majors in wins and run differential, and were just six runs behind the Reds in runs allowed. Since May 22, they held the lead in a division that was widely regarded as the best in the NL going into the year.

The Cardinals, despite losing Albert Pujols to the Angels and the good Chris Carpenter to being Chris Carpenter, were still slightly favored to win the division over the upstart Reds. They got off to a hot start, leading the division for the first month or so but relinquished the lead to the Reds in late May, and were never able to catch them again. They had the best run differential in the division for most of the year, and finished at +117 which was second best in the NL. They were only 2.5 games back of the Reds in July, and I kept expecting their record to regress upwards based on that number but it never really happened. I guess 88 wins is nothing to sneeze at though.

Projected Starting lineups

Cardinals Nationals
CF Jon Jay RF Jayson Werth
RF Carlos Beltran CF Bryce Harper
LF Matt Holliday 3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Allen Craig 1B Adam LaRoche
C Yadier Molina LF Mike Morse
3B David Freese SS Ian Desmond
2B Daniel Descalso 2B Danny Espinosa
SS Pete Kozma C Kurt Suzuki

Rotations

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detweiler

Team Statistics (NL ranks)

  Cardinals Nationals
wRC+ 107 (1st) 102 (3rd)
BSR -1.2 (9th) -18.3 (16th)
UZR -20.4 (12th) 8.7 (6th)
DRS +13 (5th) -13 (10th)
SP FIP- 91 (2nd) 89 (1st)
RP FIP- 103 (14th) 96 (5th)

In case you were wondering, Mike Morse (-5.3) and Adam LaRoche (-3.4) were the biggest baserunning offenders for the Nationals, but it takes a team to put up a total that terrible.

Game Schedule

Game 1 (@StL): Sunday, 2:07 CT

Game 2 (@StL): Monday, 3:07 CT

Game 3 (@WSN): Wednesday, TBA

Game 4 (@WSN): Thursday, TBA

Game 5 (@WSN): Friday, TBA

Storylines you may or may not care about

The Nationals finally let Teddy Roosevelt win their Presidents Race. If they get swept, expect to hear all sorts of black cat/goat/Babe Ruth level team jinexes.

You might not have heard, but Stephen Strasburg was shut down and is missing the playoffs. That should get more of the blame than Teddy if they lose. I still can't believe how badly the Nats handled that innings limit.

Awkward photo fan favorite Lance Berkman is done for the year, and probably his career, due to a knee injury suffered early this year. Sorry, MO.

I can't wait to see what Genius Moves Cards manager Mike Matheny will pull out this postseason. He learned a lot from TLR, so I'm expecting at least three innings to have three or more pitching changes during this series.

Prediction

It's hard not to pick the Nationals here, but as we know anything can happen in a short series. *Gives finger to Diamondbacks, Dodgers*

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