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NLDS 2017 Preview: Nationals vs. Cubs Predictions

NLDS 2017 Preview: Nationals vs. Cubs Predictions

The Nationals' quest for the 2017 World Series championship begins on Friday when they take on the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the 2017 National League Divisional Series.

This marks the Nationals' fourth trip to the postseason since moving to the nation's capital over a decade ago, and the team is still looking for its first trip to the NLCS.

In order to do so, they will have to defeat one of baseball's best rosters, led by one of baseball's best managers in Joe Maddon.

Can the Nationals bullpen dominate in October like it did in September? Will the Nationals bats heat up like the first half of the season? How healthy will Bryce Harper be?

These are all questions that will be answered beginning on Friday.

But with the series still in front of us, we took the pulse of the NBC Sports Washington newsroom to see what people are thinking.

So here it is, NBC Sports Washington's 2017 NLDS Nationals-Cubs predictions.

RELATED: NATIONALS-CUBS TALE OF THE TAPE

NLDS 2017: Nationals vs. Cubs Predictions

Smokin' Al Koken (@RealSmokinAL)Assuming Scherzer is Scherzer for at least one start , I think the Nat’s combination of pitching and power will prevail . Fully understanding regular season results usually mean nothing once the playoffs begin, I do believe the Nats success in their August series at Wrigley will give the team a good vibe when they return to the ivy . And my series under the radar , X-factor hero will be Howie Kendrick . Nats in 5, beginning another 108 year championship drought for the cubbies. Prediction: Nationals in 5. 

— Joe Beninati (@JoeBpxp): I know this may sound familiar to DC sports fans, but I was hoping for a different NLDS matchup! Then again, I like seeing the would-be champions defeat the reigning champions somewhere along the road ... might as well be right off the bat! I am confident that the Nationals have the arms to get the job done, and this fall their bats will behave better. Prediction: Nationals in 4. 

— Rob Carlin (@RobCarlinNBCS) While the Nats finally addressed their biggest issue over the years by shoring up their bullpen, I’m still a “show me” type of guy.  I  can’t trust those guys under the lights of the postseason until I see it. For the first time in 100 years, we can say the Cubs have been there and done that. Add in Max Scherzer's injury & the fact Bryce Harper hasn’t played much the last few months, and I fear another early playoff exit in DC. PREDICTION: Cubs in 4.

— Julie Donaldson (@JDonaldsonNBCS): With the Nationals healthy (fingers crossed), Dusty Baker gets closer to his first ring against his former team. Prediction: Nationals in 5.

— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikNBCS): I’ve been saying for a couple of months now that the Nats, when at full strength, are the best team in baseball. They’ve got the offense. They're great in the field. And their one question mark — the bullpen — was shored up at the deadline. Bring it home, boys! Prediction: Nationals in 5. 

— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS): This is it. This is the year. No, not necessarily the World Series, but at least getting past the division series. Scherzer and Strasburg will be too much in a five-game series. But the bats need to show up. Prediction: Nationals in 4. 

— Chick Hernandez (@ChickAtNBCS): With Bryce Harper back in the lineup. the Nats get fresh legs and add depth to the middle of the lineup. The 1-2 punch of Strasburg & Scherzer — in whatever order — will have them steamrolling through the first series. Prediction: Nationals in 5.

— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS): The Nationals' lineup is stacked, and their pitching staff may be the best they've ever had, but after the All-Star break the Cubs scored more runs than anybody and had the best record in the NL. It's just a tough draw for the Nats. Prediction: Cubs in 5.

— Craig Laughlin (@Laughlin18): Here is my prediction. Blue Jays win it all!!! I have a great feeling about the Nats this season! They are ready to take the next step to win it all for our city. Will Bryce and Max be themselves ? If so, the pitching should be the difference. Predicton: Nationals in 5. 

— Michael Jenkins (@JenksNBCS): The Nationals finally pull it together and advance to the NLCS thanks to a stellar starting rotation and a bullpen that holds up just enough. Prediction: Nationals in 5.

— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir): The nation's capital does not do playoff sports very well, at least not recently. Will it change this year? It has to. The Cubs just got their world championship. Time for them to wait another 100 years. Seriously. I can't deal with anymore disappointment. Prediction: Nationals in 5.​

— Grant Paulsen (@GranthPaulsen)The Nationals have two ace-caliber starters, a revamped bullpen with three quality late-inning arms and one of the best lineups in baseball. Mike Rizzo has built a championship club and it will finally pay off with an NLCS appearances. Prediction: Nationals in 4.

— Rich Tandler (@TandlerNBCS): Sure, I’m a little worried about Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Actually, you add those up and that’s a lot of worry. But even if they aren’t at the top of their games, there is still Stras, Gio, Rendon, Zimm, Murphy, and the rest. I look for Michael Taylor to play a big role in the Nationals’—yes, I’m going to say it—sweep of the Cubs. Prediction: Nationals in 3. 

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm
 

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE