MLB Playoffs 2017: Predicting the NL Playoff picture
The Washington Nationals made this easy and had already punched their ticket to the dance. All they can attempt to do now is chase down the Los Angeles Dodgers for home-field advantage throughout the NL Playoffs.
Although five back in the win column makes that unlikely, no one ever thought it would be that close to the Dodgers’ historic pace.
As a potential second seed in the playoffs, they are staring at a date with the winner of the NL Central. While the Nationals won the East with relative ease, they did have their share of issues as well.
Like who in the bullpen could nail down the final outs for a win.
At one point Dusty Baker’s bullpen had a MLB-worst 5.27 ERA. Now with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, they have solved that problem. In the first-half, the Nationals bullpen had a 5.20 ERA, 4.91 FIP, and 14 blown saves.
Since the All-Star Break, Washington’s bullpen has an ERA of 3.50, sixth among all MLB teams, and a 3.51 FIP. They’ve only blown one game since then.
Doolittle has 19 saves and a 2.00 ERA. Madson has a 1.06 ERA over 17 innings, with hitters just .169 against him. They also boosted their pen with former Twins closer and All-Star Brandon Kintzler (10 Holds, 2.53 ERA).
How they got here
Bryce Harper (.326, 29 HR, 87 RBI) may have been a front-runner for MVP when he went down with a knee injury in August. One that appeared more serious than it was, and potentially threatening the rest of this season. Instead, the Nats expect him back by the start of the playoffs.
Noted Cub-killer Daniel Murphy joins Harper in the top 10 of the NL batting race.
Then, of course, Max Scherzer (15-6, 2.59 ERA), Stephen Strasburg (14-4, 2.60 ERA), and Gio Gonzalez (15-7, 2.68 ERA), have all been fantastic for the Nationals’ rotation.
How they did
The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals split a four-game series in June. This was a crazy series with a playoff-like feel at times between the two.
On June 26, Eddie Butler and Gio Gonzalez had a nice duel in the mound. The Cubs added three runs in the ninth before Washington added four, and nearly completed the comeback. Then there was the Miguel Montero/Jake Arrieta game, and a Cubs comeback in the ninth to wrap up the series.
The Nationals won the season series in Chicago back in August.