Baggarly's five questions for Giants-Nationals NLDS
Five questions for the Giants-Nationals NLDS showdown
The Giants blanked the Pirates 8-0 in the NL Wild Card, which cleared the road to Washington where they'll face the Nationals in the 2014 National League Division Series. Here are five key questions from Andrew Baggarly, to which the answers could dramatically impact the series.
Will Michael Morse be ready?
The former Nationals fan favorite could cast a long shadow on the bench, but he hasn’t been able to take an unrestricted swing since straining his left oblique on Aug. 31. He hasn’t seen major league pitching since then, either. But he continues to try getting on the field for batting practice, and although it’s looking like an extreme long shot, if the Giants believe he could be playable, they would put him on the roster.
Which pitcher do the Nationals use in a save situation?
Rafael Soriano is their big-money closer, but he lost his job to Drew Storen several weeks ago. Storen is the same pitcher who was one strike away multiple times but couldn’t close out the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 NL Division Series, the last time Washington made the playoffs. No matter how well Storen is pitching now, the finishing touches on any close game will have fans here in torture mode.
Which Tim Hudson will show up in Game 2?
The right-hander who has ground-balled the Nationals to death while posting an 18-5 record and 2.35 ERA in 31 career starts against them? Or the 39-year-old with two troublesome hips who got blasted for an .872 ERA and .357 opponent’s average in five September starts, all losses? Yusmeiro Petit and Tim Lincecum will be ready, but Hudson allowed four runs in the first inning twice in September. So if he’s lacking stuff, the damage could be irreparable – especially since Hudson will oppose right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who is coming off a no-hitter.
What’s happening in left field?
Ryan Zimmerman can’t make the throw from third base any longer and he missed 50 games with a torn hamstring before returning in late September. But he’s a candidate to crack the lineup in left field. The Giants plan to stick with Travis Ishikawa, which is an easy call considering he homered off Game 1 starter Stephen Strasburg when the Giants saw him here in August. But do they carry both Juan Perez and Gary Brown to provide late-inning defense? And what does Bruce Bochy do if there’s a Game 4, and left-hander Gio Gonzalez is on the mound for Washington?
Can the Giants win a series in which Bumgarner gets the ball just once?
The new playoff format is supposed to reward division winners and hamstring the Wild Card entrant to some effect, and the Giants paid the price by needing Madison Bumgarner to shut down the Pittsburgh Pirates in the knockout game. With Bumgarner limited to Game 3, and potentially a short-rest appearance out of the bullpen in a potential Game 5, Bruce Bochy will rely on Jake Peavy to win at least one game in this series. It’s impossible to envision the Giants advancing to the NLCS if that doesn’t happen.