NLDS Series Preview: Cubs at Nationals, October 6 - October 12, 2017

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NLDS Series Preview: Cubs at Nationals, October 6 – October 12, 2017

Chicago Cubs


Tonight, the Chicago Cubs will kick of the best-of-five National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals. According to the odds-makers, the Cubs are the underdogs in this one, and will have to win without home field advantage.

If they do manage to advance to their third consecutive NLCS, though, they’ll meet up with one of the Dodgers or Diamondbacks, who also kick of their NLDS tonight.

Tense times lie ahead, Cubs fans. Are you ready?

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (92-70) won seven of their last ten regular season games and went 49-25 in the second half of the season.

The Washington Nationals (97-65) split their last ten games evenly, and went an also impressive 45-29 in the second half of the season.

Game Times and Broadcasts


Nationals Park

  • Friday, October 6 at 6:30 CT on TBS, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, October 7 at 4:30 CT on TBS, 670 The Score

Wrigley Field

  • Monday, October 9 at TBA CT on TBS, 670 The Score
  • (If necessary) Tuesday, October 10 at TBA CT on TBS, 670 The Score

Nationals Park

  • (If necessary) Thursday, October 12 at TBA CT on TBS, 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs


  • Kyle Hendricks (3.03 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.76 xFIP; 3.08 K/BB) – R
  • Jon Lester (4.33 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 3.85 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB) – L
  • Jose Quintana (4.15 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 3.39 K/BB) – L
  • Jake Arrieta (3.53 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 4.11 xFIP; 2.96 K/BB) – R
  • Kyle Hendricks (3.03 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.76 xFIP; 3.08 K/BB) – R

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Jon Jay, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Willson Contreras, C
  5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  6. Javy Baez, 2B
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. Pitcher

Of course, Ian Happ, Ben Zobrist, Alex Avila, Albert Almora, and some of the other part-time starters will all work into the starting lineup throughout this series.

Washington Nationals


  • Stephen Strasburg (2.52 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 3.27 xFIP; 4.34 K/BB) – R
  • Gio Gonzalez (2.96 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 4.24 xFIP; 2.38 K/BB) – L
  • Max Scherzer (2.51 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 3.28 xFIP; 4.87 K/BB) – R
  • Tanner Roark (4.67 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 4.15 xFIP; 2.59 K/BB) – R*
  • Stephen Strasburg (2.52 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 3.27 xFIP; 4.34 K/BB) – R

*It remains possible that Max Scherzer will be pushed back to game 4, but as of now, all signs point to this rotation.

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Trea Turner, SS
  2. Bryce Harper, RF
  3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
  4. Daniel Murphy, 2B
  5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
  6. Jayson Werth, LF
  7. Matt Wieters, C
  8. Michael Taylor, CF
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

The Cubs Game One starter, Kyle Hendricks, had one of the hottest second-halves in all of baseball.

Indeed, his 2.19 ERA led the National League among qualifiers, and was third best in MLB, while his 3.38 FIP (which is always higher for Hendricks than it is for most other pitchers given his inducing-weak-contact strategy), ranked 12th in baseball.

Speaking of weak contact, Hendricks’ 22.6% soft contact rate ranked 10th best in baseball since the All-Star break, while his 25.7% hard-hit rate ranked 8th best. He’s also done a good job at getting balls on the ground during that stretch, 49.3%, and has limited fly balls as well as anybody (29.0%). All of the above should help to limit the home run capabilities of a strong Nationals offense.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Kris Bryant had a torrid month of September, slashing .304/.405/.533 (142 wRC+) with nine doubles and four homers to go along with a 12.6% walk rate.

Anthony Rizzo, on the other hand, was a bit cold in September, slashing just .236/.367/.348 (89 wRC+). Fortunately, you can unclench a bit, as his identical 14.7% walk and strikeout rates suggest he’s seeing the ball just fine.

And finally, since returning from the disabled list, Willson Contreras has had an extremely unusual month. Despite an ISO at just .026 and a slugging percentage of just .316, he’s managed a 124 wRC+. How? Well, TONS and TONS of walks. In 50 plate appearances, Contreras has walked at a 24.0% clip, while striking out just 14% of the time. Combined with a .289 average and he’s still been a hugely valuable offensive contributor.

I’m guessing Strasburg, Scherzer, and Gonzalez will be more willing to challenge Contreras in the zone this series, so you’re likely to see those power numbers come up and that walk rate come down.

Washington Nationals – Pitching

As we explored earlier this week, the Nationals bullpen is a pretty frightening matchup for the Cubs. After finishing the first half of 2017 as one of the worst in the league, Washington added three big arms to their pen and they solidified the group into one of the game’s best.

On top of that, of course, the Cubs will have to face a three-headed monster of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Max Scherzer this series. Scherzer’s health (hamstring) has been called into question over the past week or so, but if he’s on the mound, he’s still a challenge. And, of course, Strasburg is one of just a few NL pitchers whose numbers can stack up next to Scherzer’s anyway. So this could be a tough one for the Cubs offense.

Washington Nationals – Offense

I took a fairly in-depth look at the Nationals top four offensive contributors when we tried to predict the Cubs starting rotation and the analysis therein remains relevant. Here’s how they’ve done in September:

These are the four guys you need to keep your eye on the most, as each is a fairly significant triple-threat.

The Cubs rotation is deep, but, again, they’ll have their work cut out for them with one of these four batters stepping up in nearly 50% of all plate appearances.

I guess tough match-ups are part of life in the playoffs.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami