Compiling a 95-67 record, the Nationals had a very successful campaign in 2016. However, the Dodgers have dominated them this year, beating the Nats in five out of six games. Washington is 1-2 against Los Angeles at home. Though the loss of star pitcher Steven Strasburg to the disabled list will certainly hurt their chances of winning the series, the return of Joe Ross and the reemergence of Tanner Roark as an elite starter will help the Nationals in their postseason quest. Home games are vital in any seven-game series, so these first two are must-win opportunities for Washington.
Though the Dodgers enjoyed an equally successful season, they enter Game 1 with a much different perspective. They had to fight hard to beat out the Giants and win the division, and many players had stints on the disabled list throughout the season, including ace Clayton Kershaw. However, Kershaw is back in action and fully prepped to win more postseason games for the Dodgers. Their revamped offense also has many powerful bats such as Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, and star rookie Corey Seager. The Dodgers’ recent postseason failures should fuel their fire and give them more motivation to get out of the divisional round this year.
Max Scherzer, the Nats’ ace and one of the most dangerous starting pitchers in baseball, will make the start for Game 1 on Friday. He’s had yet another stellar season, compiling a 2.96 ERA, a 20-7 record, and a whopping 284 strikeouts. Scherzer’s been practically unbeatable over the last few months, and he hasn’t suffered a loss since August 9th. He’s 8-0 in his last nine starts, so he’ll carry plenty of momentum into this first playoff game. He hasn’t faced Los Angeles yet this season, but he holds a 2.53 ERA and an 8-3 record at home.
For the Dodgers, they’ll be sending out their ace – Kershaw – as well. He’s made just five starts and won only one game since his return from injury, but his postseason dominance cannot be denied. For the season, he finished with a ridiculous 1.63 ERA and a 12-4 record. Despite only making 21 starts, those numbers are fantastic. In his lone start against Washington this year, Kershaw earned the win while only giving up one run on six hits. However, many of the Nats have had success against him this season, including Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, and Jayson Werth, who all have .300+ batting averages against him.
Sports.net’s top tip: Though it’s difficult to pick against Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs, he’s only just back from the disabled list and Max Scherzer has been red-hot. Not only that, but the Nationals are playing at home and have more offensive depth. Washington takes Game 1 by a score of 4-2.