Only one time in the history of Major League Baseball has a team come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the playoffs (2004 Boston Red Sox).
That being said, with the Washington Nationals aiming for a National League Championship Series sweep at press time, we can assume the Nationals will have moved on to the Fall Classic for the first time in franchise history. That gives us an opportunity to examine the Nats’ chances of pulling off one of the more improbable championship runs in recent memory — not just in baseball, but all of sports.
Although they’ll most likely be a considerable underdog in the World Series no matter who emerges from the dogfight going on over in the American League, there’s no doubt this is a club that can continue to make noise.
As productive as the hitters have been, let’s be honest: it boils down to the pitching. Nationals starting pitchers contributed 21.2 innings of one-run ball — which was an unearned run — across the first three games of the NLCS. And as incredible as that was, it’s not too farfetched that it holds up against their still-to-be-determined AL opponent. Let’s review Washington’s Big 3 on the staff with a title on the line.
Max Scherzer — RHP (Probable Game 1 starter): Of course, the decision is academic when it comes to electing the Nationals’ Game 1 starter for the World Series. He even has the experience at this stage, too.
Despite Scherzer uncharacteristically being slightly off down the stretch, the former NL Cy Young Award winner has looked like his normal self since the calendar flipped to October. In his four postseason outings (three starts) collectively spanning 20 innings, Scherzer’s been tagged for only four runs — three of which coming in the Wild Card Game.
Mad Max appears to be back at the top of his game after working consecutive seven-inning gems, including one in which he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Anticipate some more zeroes when Scherzer is on the mound.
Stephen Strasburg — RHP (Probable Game 2 starter): Strasburg, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, arrived on the scene nine years ago with the highest of expectations. He’s enjoyed a pretty strong career up to this point but it might only be now where Strasburg is cementing his legacy.
His playoff work has been the stuff of legend. Not only did Strasburg seemingly save the day with a much-needed three-inning scoreless appearance out of the bullpen in the Wild Card Game, he’s also clocked in since with three quality starts in as many tries.
Altogether, he’s surrendered just four earned innings over 22 total innings, continuing his magnificent work in the postseason. Strasburg now owns a microscopic 1.10 ERA for his career in the playoffs while racking up 57 K’s to just five walks.
Patrick Corbin — LHP (Probable Game 3 starter): Anibal Sanchez has had the better postseason but it will be the fellow veteran Corbin who goes behind those dominant two arms at the top of the rotation. And it’s a very logical call.
After the Nationals shelled out a six-year, $140 million deal for his services last offseason, Corbin responded with a very good first campaign in our nation’s capital, tying his career-high in wins (14) and also nearly setting career-best marks in innings (202), ERA (3.25) and strikeouts (238).
However, bettors need to be wary of the righty-lefty splits possessed by Corbin’s potential opponent. Both the Houston Astros (.868) and New York Yankees (.852) ranked in the top three in baseball in team OPS during the regular season.
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