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Sports Dawgs Take Shop: Nats Comeback?

28 October 2019 Sports


October 28, 2019

Welcome to Sports Dawgs Take Shop. Every Monday morning Randy Woodward and Josh Henry will break down a moment or story line in sports that enthralled us from the weekend (Randy had the day off this Monday, so we pushed the release for this week). Last week, the Sports Dawgs previewed the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. This week, the question is: can the Nationals comeback from a 3-2 deficit? 

RW: I don’t want to say no, but it’s going to be a tough order.

The Nationals have already won two in Houston and I think beating the team with the best home record in baseball two more times in that park is a tall task, especially considering how the Nationals are playing right now.  Being outscored at home 19-3 is a kick in the gut, and in the 3 weekend games we saw a fun, loose bunch tighten up, for whatever reason.  Trea Turner, who looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights in DC, couldn’t hit the ocean if he fell off a cruise ship right now, and he is the engine that makes the machine run. No one is getting the key hit with men on base and line drives that in the first two games would have been hits are being caught. Just when you were feeling good about game 5, Max Scherzer is scratched with back and neck issues.  Everything is going the Astros way.

But, the baseball gods are fickle. And as we know, things can change in a heartbeat. But they better change quickly, because now there is no margin for error. Tuesday night, the Nationals will need a superhuman effort from Stephen Strasburg, not to mention some run support. When a pitcher feels like every pitch has to be perfect, that’s when mistakes are made. The crowd will be raucous, and the Nats will be facing Justin Verlander, one of the aces of the Houston staff.

Davey Martinez’ motto has been “go 1-0” and that’s how the Nationals will have to approach Tuesday’s game 6. Washington has stared down the barrel of 3 elimination games this post-season and have found a way to survive.  I see them finding a way tomorrow, and then, as we know, anything can happen in a Game 7. Can it be done? The Nationals have proven me wrong too many times this season for me to say no.

 

JH: Randy, I picked the Houston Astros to win this series. I won’t lie, I thought the egg was on my face after the Washington Nationals took control of the series with two wins in Houston to begin the matchup. Turns out, the baseball gods didn’t want this series to end early. Now, on the back of dominant starting pitching and timely hits against the Nationals weak bullpen, Houston has a lead I can’t imagine they’ll relinquish.

Max Scherzer’s injury feels like the nail in the coffin for a team that can’t afford its rock solid starting pitching to crack. The bullpen can’t hold up (see Joe Ross’ performance last night or the grand slam from the night before), and the offense wasn’t the thing this team planned on relying on coming into a series against Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Yes, Washington has shown a propensity to shock great teams on the road this postseason, but if they have to see Gerrit Cole again I don’t love their chances.

Only three Nationals players are hitting well in this series. We know all about now-superstar LF Juan Soto. Adam Eaten has been consistently good, but Asdrubal Cabrera is a utility man. Where has Anthony Rendon gone? Can Trea Turner have an OPS above .400? These problems need solutions, and fast. It may not matter how good Strasburg is, if the inevitable outcome for Houston is to match the excellent pitching, and play a battle of whose bullpen will crack first. We knew it was the weakness of the Nationals all year, and thanks to the injury to Mad Max, it may be the time it won’t get enough help to hold up.

I’ll pick against Justin Verlander tomorrow night, Strasburg is due for another clutch performance, but I’m calling Houston to finish it in Game 7 against Patrick Corbin on a short rest.


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