The Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs split a four-game set in Washington in June. This weekend, the two sides will square off again, this time for a three-game series at Wrigley.
At the time of the first series, the Cubs were looking up at the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. Since then, the Cubs have caught up, passed and built a lead over the Brewers in the division. All the while, the Nationals continue to cruise toward an NL East title, what would be the team’s second in a row, and fourth in six seasons.
Despite the Nationals having the best team D.C. baseball has seen in decades, the record-setting Los Angeles Dodgers are running away with home field advantage in the National League. Thus, the Nationals and the Cubs are projected to face off in the NLDS, for the right to play, in all likelihood, the Dodgers in the NLCS. This weekend’s series will be the last the Nats and Cubs see of each other before the two face-off again in October.
The Nationals are coming into this series undermanned. The pitching staff is without both Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer due to injury. Edwin Jackson will pitch on Saturday, and Erick Fedde will get another chance against another tough team on Sunday. In addition, the Nationals just lost flame-throwing lefty Enny Romero to an injury. The Nationals bullpen recently loaded up at the trade deadline, but Romero had been a key piece of the bullpen all season long, and figured to be so in the postseason.
The Cubs will be starting Kyle Hendricks on Friday, John Lackey on Saturday and Jon Lester on Sunday.
On top of the pitching injuries, the Nationals are still without many of its key position players, Trea Turner being the most notable. The Nationals still have the quartet of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon healthy (knock on wood), to supply the main force of the offense. However, despite all the injuries the Nationals have had, this offense has still been able to produce.
The Nationals also enter this series somewhat cold, losing four of its last six. The Cubs, on the other hand, have been one of baseball’s best teams since the All-Star break. Catcher Willson Contreras has emerged as a rising star, while household names like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have continued to be stars for the Cubs.
All in all, it’s two opposites coming into this game: The cold, battered Nationals against the red-hot Cubs. If the Nationals are able to win at least two of three in this series, it will be a great sign going forward for when the team is totally healthy. Even if the Nationals aren’t able to win the series, being able to put up a good fight with the depleted roster will show that this Nationals team will be able to beat the Cubs once healthy. While this series may not be the best representation of how the two sides will fare come the playoffs due to the Nationals health, it will undoubtedly provide insight for both teams to use going forward.