Just a couple of days ago, the upcoming weekend series between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers had huge significance. At Nationals Park there was a potential to have the title of best team in the league switching hands.
This of course is due in part to Los Angeles losing 16 of a stretch from 17 games.
Since then the Dodgers have won two in a row, while the Nationals have lost two of their last three. The Dodgers lead for home-field has now pushed back up to 5.0 games.
This will be the final regular season series between the two squads. In Los Angeles back in June, the Nationals took two out of three with their only loss being against Clayton Kershaw.
Fortunately for the Nationals, Kershaw (17-3, 2.12 ERA) is not scheduled to start in this series. Then again, the Nats ace, Max Scherzer (14-6, 2.59 ERA) will not see the mound either.
As of Thursday evening, here are the projected starters:
Alex Wood (14-3, 2.81 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.88 ERA)
Rich Hill (9-8, 3.67 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (13-4, 2.64 ERA)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-7, 3.59 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (14-7, 2.68 ERA)
Notice who else is missing for the Dodgers? No Yu Darvish.
While you could easily make the case that Wood deserves to be the No. 2 starter behind Kershaw, Darvish will be one of their three post-season starters. Meaning for the Nationals, they will only see one of their potential opposing starting pitchers this weekend if the two teams were to meet in the post-season. The Dodgers will see two with Strasburg and Gonzalez.
All three of the earlier head-to-heads in 2017 were low scoring. Hits were few and far between for each team.
But this is line-up is completely different than in the spring and going against different parts of the rotation. There is no Bryce Harper or Daniel Murphy available for the team; they drove in three of the Nationals seven runs in their earlier series. Howie Kendrick has taken over in left field and Jayson Werth is now back.
Not too many changes for the Dodgers in their line-up. The big addition is Curtis Granderson, but only if he gets the start in a loaded outfield.
During their dismal stretch of one win in 17 tries, only Yasiel Puig has kept the bats alive. Since August 15, Puig is hitting .303 with 27 hits. Of the 27, 15 have been for extra bases. In the spring though, he only had one hit and three strikeouts for nine at-bats vs. the Nationals.
For those with short memories, last year the Dodgers defeated the Nationals 3-2 in the Divisional Series. It didn’t matter that Washington had home-field as the No. 2 seed.
It is all but a lock that the Dodgers and Nationals will not meet this post-season until the NLCS, with both taking the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. Unlike the NLDS, the League Championship is a best-of-seven which will be a completely different scenario when they meet up. Both teams have already clinched a playoff spot and the Nationals have claimed the 2017 NL East title. As far as the two are concerned, they are just battling for who plays at home for four games as opposed to three.