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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:56 PM

NLCS - Nationals vs. Cardinals

2019 Head-to-Head Matchups (St. Louis 5-2, Under 5-1-1)

St. Louis vs. Washington (Nationals Park)
April 29 – Cardinals 6, Nationals 3 (Over 8 ½)
April 30 – Cardinals 3, Nationals 2 (Under 9 ½)
May 1 – Cardinals 5, Nationals 1 (Under 7 ½)
May 2 – Nationals 2, Cardinals 1 (Under 8 ½)

Washington vs. St. Louis (Busch Stadium)
September 16 – Cardinals 4, Nationals 2 (Under 8)
September 17 – Nationals 6, Cardinals 2 (Push 8)
September 18 – Cardinals 5, Nationals 1 (Under 8)

The top two teams in the National League are watching the Championship Series from home as the Braves and Dodgers were each bounced at home in decisive Game 5’s of the Divisional Series. The two clubs still standing with the World Series as their next goal are the Cardinals and Nationals, who begin the NLCS at Busch Stadium.

Although Washington (93-69) finished with a better regular season record than St. Louis (91-71), the Cardinals have home-field advantage in the series due to them winning the National League Central title. The Nationals were four outs away from getting knocked out in the Wild Card round against the Brewers before Washington rallied for three runs in the eighth inning of a 4-3 shocker to advance to the NLDS.

The Nats took the two-time National League champion Dodgers to Game 5 and were on their way to elimination, but Washington pulled out another epic comeback. And they did this against three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw as the Nationals hit back-to-back homers off the Dodgers’ ace in a rare relief appearance off the bats of Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to tie the game at 3-3. Howie Kendrick’s grand slam in the 10th inning put Washington ahead for good and lifted the Nats to a 7-3 victory and the franchise’s first ever playoff series win, which includes their history as the Montreal Expos dating back to 1969.

The Cardinals last won a World Series title in 2011 against the Rangers, while St. Louis is in the postseason for the first time since 2015. The Redbirds went back and forth in the NLDS against the Braves as each team split the first two games at SunTrust Park and Games 3 and 4 at Busch Stadium. St. Louis exploded for 10 runs in the first inning of the winner-take-all Game 5 in Atlanta as the Cardinals crushed the Braves, 13-1 to make their first NLCS appearance since 2014.

The starting pitching advantage lies with the Nationals, who are led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Washington used both its aces in relief appearances during crucial wins early in the postseason, as Scherzer shut down the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS as a -120 favorite, 6-1. The three-time Cy Young winner rebounded from a tough outing against the Brewers in the Wild Card victory to allow four hits and one earned run in seven innings as Washington is 2-3 in his five postseason starts.

Strasburg picked up a no-decision in the Game 5 triumph at Los Angeles as he gave up three earned runs in six innings. The right-hander beat the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLDS by striking out 10 batters in six innings of a 4-2 win as a +140 underdog. Since Strasburg threw 105 pitches on Wednesday, he will likely start again in Game 3 at Nationals Park on Monday night.

In two outings this season against the Cardinals, the Nationals went 1-1 with Strasburg starting, which included a 2-1 home victory on May 2 as he struck out nine batters in 6.2 innings of work. Scherzer, the St. Louis native, lost twice to his hometown squad in 2019 by exact 5-1 scores, as he was tagged for five runs in 6.2 innings on September 18 in spite of striking out 11 batters.

Veteran Anibal Sanchez will get the call to start the series opener for Washington as the hurler turned in a solid performance in Game 3 against the Dodgers. Sanchez yielded one run and four hits, while striking out nine batters in five innings, but the Dodgers exploded for seven runs in the sixth inning to erase a 2-1 deficit in a 10-4 runaway. The Nationals have won eight of Sanchez’s last 10 road starts since late May, including four victories as an underdog.

Miles Mikolas will take the mound in the series opener for the Cardinals as the right-hander has pitched better down the stretch. Mikolas won 18 games in 2018, but the journeyman hurler owned a 9-14 record this season, while ERA jumped from 2.83 to 4.16 from last season to this season. Mikolas picked up a no-decision in Game 1 of the NLDS in spite of allowing one earned run in five innings of a 7-6 victory. The last time Mikolas faced the Nationals in September at home, he gave up three runs in six innings of a 6-2 setback.

Adam Wainwright helped the Cardinals capture the 2006 championship as the team’s closer, but 13 years later, the right-hander will start Game 2 of the NLCS. Since July, St. Louis has won 13 of Wainwright’s past 17 outings, including a 5-1 home underdog triumph over Scherzer and the Nationals on September 18. In four of Wainwright’s previous five starts at Busch Stadium, he has not allowed a run, including in the 3-1 Game 3 loss to Atlanta in which the Braves scored all three of their runs in the ninth inning.

Jack Flaherty will never receive better run support than the 10-0 advantage taken by the Cardinals in the first inning of the Game 5 blowout in Atlanta. Flaherty helped the Cards clinch a spot in the NLCS by tossing six innings and striking out eight to turn in his 10th consecutive quality start since late August. St. Louis has compiled an 11-6 mark in his past 17 trips to the mound, including a 5-1 ledger at home, while allowing two earned runs or less 12 times during this span.

The Cardinals captured three of four meetings in D.C. back in late April/early May, including two wins as a road underdogs. St. Louis grabbed two of three matchups at Busch Stadium in mid-September, as five of the final six meetings finished UNDER the total. In their previous postseason get-together back in the 2012 NLDS, the Nationals were ready to close out the Cardinals in Game 5 by jumping out to a 6-0 lead. St. Louis kept chipping away and scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun Washington, 9-7, but the Cardinals were ousted by the eventual World Champion Giants in the NLCS.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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