It's been a long time since the Washington Nationals played truly meaningful baseball. With such a commanding lead in the division, they've spent most of the past couple months just making sure they were healthy and tuned up for the postseason.
That now starts Friday, which the Chicago Cubs coming to town for the first two games of the NLDS.
The biggest question surrounding the Nationals, though, is whether or not they can make it past Chicago, to the NLCS for the first time in franchise history.
Here's a look at both teams before Friday's Game 1.
Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez form as dominant a trio of starters as the Nats have ever worked with, and there's nothing better than having strong pitching in October. Scherzer's hamstring will be a concern, even if he says he's fine.
Strasburg has been their best pitcher since the All-Star break, and went 4-0 with a 0.83 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings in September to earn his third career National League Pitcher of the Month Award. He also allowed just 19 hits and seven walks without giving up a home run in five outings in the last full month of the season.
Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez all ranked in the top-5 for ERA in the NL during the regular season as well.
The Cubs fell just behind the Nats in team ERA at the end of the season. The Nationals also rank eigth in walks, the Cubs 22nd.
What was once a glaring issue for the Nationals, is now a strength, finishing fourth in the NL in saves.
Still, the Cubs have a much better bullpen ERA, fewer walks, and a lot more strikeouts.
Sean Doolittle did win NL Reliever of the Month, and the additions of Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, along with Doolittle really improved a Nationals’ bullpen that was one of the worst in the league during the first half of the season.
Outside of those three pitchers though, the rest of the bullpen is far less reliable.
The Cubs bring a little more power in terms of home runs, but both are almost dead even in runs scored during the regular season.
Daniel Murphy finished second in batting (.322), while Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon also finished hitting over .300 ranking inside the top-15.
That Nats finished the regular season with the advantage in team batting as well.
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Major disadvantage for the Nationals here. The Cubs won the World Series last year, while the Nats are still looking to win their first playoff series in franchise history.
Yes, they won their fourth NL East title in six seasons, but experience comes when the games get deeper into the postseason.
That Nationals haven't been there yet, and the Cubs have won it it.
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