There will be a World Series game in Washington D.C. for the first time since 1933.

Two quarterbacks are heading to the bench and Jalen Ramsey has finally been dealt.

While all of that has been going on there has been some monetary proposals in the NBA.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. Nationals earn first World Series berth

It was a historic week in Washington D.C. after the Nationals swept the St Louis Cardinals in four games to earn the first World Series berth in Nationals/Expos history.

The Nationals were the 29th team to make the Fall Classic, leaving the Seattle Mariners as the only organisation to not have been to one.

While this is a big day for this franchise, it is also one for some very loyal Washington D.C. fans as this will be the first World Series played in D.C. since 1933 when the Senators faced the Giants and lost in five games.

The Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins.

 

2. Quarterbacks head to the bench

The Marcus Mariota era may be over in Tennessee, while the Josh Rosen era in Miami is at least on hold.

The Tennessee Titans announced this week that Mariota will be replaced under center by Ryan Tannehill going forward. The Miami Dolphins also announced Rosen will once again be on the bench and replaced by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Rosen is still young having been taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft so he has some time to still find his way, but Mariota is bordering on being a veteran at this point, so this very well might be the end of his career as a starter.

 

3. Ramsey on the move

Ramsey finally got his wish this week as he was traded by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Los Angeles Rams for first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.

This came on the heels of the Rams' trade of Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the day.

Ramsey asked to be traded by the Jaguars after a Week 2 spat with head coach Doug Marrone.

He got his wish and is thrilled to be playing for a NFL Super Bowl contender.

 

4. NBA contracts being weighed and measured

It is that time of year where players and teams figure out what they will be paid or what can be afforded, and Wednesday, several reports came out that players have been given some offers.

Pascal Siakam is weighing an extension with the Toronto Raptors, as is Bogdan Bogdanovic with the Sacramento Kings, but Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown turned down a four-year, $80million extension which came as a surprise to some.

At the same time, the Kings have apparently not offered guard Buddy Hield an extension and he may be open to a trade if they do not give him the money he is looking for.

The NBA season starts next week, but there is still plenty to be decided going forward.

Max Scherzer was delighted to have proven the critics wrong as the Washington Nationals reached the MLB World Series for the first time with a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

The win completed a 4-0 sweep for the Nationals, who face the winner of the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the showpiece, the former leading 2-1 in the American League Championship Series.

In-form Washington scored seven runs in the first inning with RBIs from Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Yan Gomes, before Patrick Corbin's 12 strikeouts seeing them through.

Remarkably, the Nationals held a 19-31 record in May, prompting speculation around the future of manager Dave Martinez and Scherzer, who was rumoured to be on the trade block, but the veteran pitcher was confident the team's experienced heads would steady the ship.

"We knew we were going to be the oldest team in the league," Scherzer said.

"Everyone said that was a negative. We looked at it as a positive.

"I'm one of the old guys and old guys can still play. I think the older guys bring a lot of value to the clubhouse. The experience we bring, the emotions we bring... all that helps."

The Nationals have been a hard-luck story in playoffs over the years but general manager Mike Rizzo, who has been with the franchise for over a decade, always kept the faith in Washington.

"I think every year we're going to the World Series," he said on the field post-game.

"We've been in the playoffs five times in eight years and have won more games than any team in the majors except the [Los Angeles] Dodgers in that time.

"So, every year we head to spring training expecting to win the World Series. Get to the playoffs and you've got a puncher's chance."

The Washington Nationals will feature in their first MLB World Series after topping the St Louis Cardinals 7-4 in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Tuesday's victory over the Cardinals secured a NLCS sweep for the high-flying Nationals.

Thanks to an early surge of offense and some excellent work on the mound, the Nationals were able to see off the Cardinals 4-0.

Washington will now await the winner of the Houston Astros-New York Yankees series as they chase their title dreams.

 

Here are three takeaways from the Nationals' win:

Nationals got the ball rolling early

It is no secret that Washington's offense have been on fire lately, but nobody expected them to explode like they did in the first inning of this critical closeout game. The Nationals scored all seven of their runs in the first inning thanks to RBIs from Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Yan Gomes. Then they coasted from there.

Even after amassing so many early runs, Washington kept fighting for more even though they ultimately could not add to their lead. The Nationals only struck out seven times in the contest after forcing St Louis to yank their starter Dakota Hudson after he recorded just one out.

Washington's pitching was on another level

The Nationals' starters have been phenomenal in the postseason as of late, and Patrick Corbin picked up right where Stephen Strasburg left off on Tuesday. Corbin notched 12 strikeouts through five innings just one day after Strasburg tallied 12 of his own against the Cardinals.

Corbin still gave up four runs in his showing, but Tanner Rainey, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson kept St Louis scoreless for the remainder of the contest. Washington's rotation held the Cardinals to five hits in the game and only allowed them to score 1.5 runs per game in the series. Consistently being able to limit the opponent's offense made Washington's road to the World Series significantly less difficult.

Top of St Louis' order continued to struggle

The Cardinals needed big contributions from their heavy hitters to avoid elimination, and they still did not get that in Game 4 of the NLCS. The first six men in St Louis' batting order combined for three hits and 11 strikeouts. While this group did account for all four of the Cardinals' runs, three of the players were held hitless — including Paul Goldschmidt, who failed to record a hit in either of the last two games.

St Louis' top six did not capitalise on opportunities while generating nearly 70 per cent of the team's at-bats and the rest made the most of what they had. When it is all said and done, big-time players have to make big-time plays. That did not happen for the Cardinals.

The Washington Nationals are on the verge of a MLB World Series berth after easing past the St Louis Cardinals 8-1 in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Washington lead the NLCS 3-0 and are one win away from a trip to the World Series following Monday's victory.

The Cardinals' backs are against the wall, and they have little time to turn things around.

 

Here are three takeaways from Washington's win:

Strasburg was electric

Stephen Strasburg was flat-out dominant against St Louis. The right-handed ace threw a season-high 117 pitches and struck out 12 batters in seven innings of work. He mowed down the Cardinals with his off-speed pitches consistently as they tried to anticipate his choices all night.

St Louis' lone run against Strasburg came after Juan Soto slipped while trying to make a throw from the outfield and missed the cut-off man. This mistake snapped the Nationals starters' streak of more than 20 innings without giving up a score in the series.

The Cardinals tallied seven hits on the night and only one was an extra-base hit. That is what good pitching can do.

Washington's "old guys" made a big difference

The Nationals have a host of seasoned veterans on their roster, including 36-year-old Howie Kendrick and 35-year-old Ryan Zimmerman. Both had impressive performances in Game 3. Kendrick went three for four with three RBIs on three doubles while Zimmerman went two for four with two RBIs. Max Scherzer could not have been more right when he said "old guys can still do it," last week.

Washington's experience could prove to be vital again in Game 4 on Tuesday, and sweeping the Cardinals will give them more recovery time as they prepare for a World Series push.

Cardinals' stars failed to show up

It is easy to see no Cardinals player had a great showing when the box score shows zero RBIs, but too many of their top performers had no impact on the game offensively. Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler went a combined 0 for 12 against the Nationals. 

Goldschmidt and Fowler combined for seven strikeouts in their eight at-bats and unfortunate performances like that will almost always lead to defeat.

The top of the Cardinals' line-up will have to be better and create some momentum if the team hope to put up a fight against Washington.

The Washington Nationals are in control of the National League Championship Series after defeating the St Louis Cardinals 3-1 in Game 2.

Washington will return to the American capital with a 2-0 lead thanks to Saturday's victory in St Louis.

Max Scherzer did not give up a hit until the seventh inning, while Adam Eaton plated two with a double in the top of the eighth to all but put the game away.

Now, the Nationals send another ace to the mound in Stephen Strasburg – who is coming off two great starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

The Cardinals will counter with their ace Jack Flaherty in the MLB playoffs.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' Game 2 NLCS win over the Cardinals

Where has all the hitting gone?

The Cardinals have forgotten how to hit. There is no nicer way to put it. It took St Louis 7.6 innings in Game 1 to get a hit and they had just one in nine innings. Then in Game 2 on Saturday, they took six innings to register their first hit once again. But the failures do not stop there. Even in St Louis' 13-1 win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the NLDS, the Cardinals had their struggles. They failed to tally a single hit over the final five innings of that game.

Now, the question here is, should we have seen this coming? That is a hard declaration to make. However, St Louis were 23rd in MLB in hits and batting average this season and 19th in runs scored. Hitting was not the team's strong suit, so they were bound to have some struggles against a Nationals team that were eighth in baseball in hits allowed and seventh in opponents' on-base percentage.

But one thing the Cardinals can hang their hat on is they are not alone in not being able to hit Scherzer in Anibal Sanchez. While going five innings over the first two games of a postseason series is bad, the Boston Red Sox did the same thing in the 2013 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. What is amazing about that though is it was the same two pitchers in Scherzer and Sanchez. You cannot make this stuff up.

The postseason isn't always about the stars

Bucky Dent, Geoff Blum, Steve Pearce and David Eckstein. Absolutely none of these men are household names but every single one of them had an impact on postseason series, and sometimes World Series as Pearce and Eckstein were named MVPs of the Fall Classic.

Michael A. Taylor was supposed to be the Nationals' next big thing a little more than five years ago, but injuries and poor performance got him passed up by Victor Robles. But with Robles' injury in the NLDS this year, Taylor was thrust into a starting role and boy did he make use of it in Game 2. Taylor smacked a home run off Adam Wainwright in the third inning to open up the scoring and give the Nationals some early confidence on the road.

He went two for four in the game. And yes, he made a defensive mistake in the bottom of the eighth, but it ultimately did not hurt the team too bad.

Taylor also was a mini hero at the end of the NLDS when he made a wonderful diving catch to end the series. Taylor might not be getting paid $200million when he possibly becomes a free agent after the 2020 season, but this performance could earn him a decent payday when he gets his chance.

Turn back the clock

To say Adam Wainwright's performance this postseason has been a revelation is far from hyperbole. After tossing 7.6 innings of shut-out ball in Game 3 of the NLDS, he turned around and worked into the eighth inning again in Game 2 of the NLCS on Saturday.

This is the guy who was throwing 83 mph when coming back from a rash of injuries over the last few years. He is the guy who pitched 28 innings in 2015, 40.3 innings in 2018 and 123.3 innings in 2017. He is 38 years old. And while he was OK this year breaking the 170-inning mark and posting an ERA of 4.19, it is pretty fair to ask where this came from.

But we are not complaining. This was a reminder of the guy who struck out Carlos Beltran to send the Cardinals to the World Series and the man who was on the mound when St Louis beat the Tigers to clinch a championship. This has been fun to watch and we are here to thank Mr. Wainwright because we enjoyed every minute.

Anibal Sanchez threatened to earn a slice of history as the Washington Nationals beat the St Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday.

The Nationals starter tossed 7 2/3 no-hitting innings and came within four outs of recording the third no-hitter in postseason history.

It was not meant to be as Jose Martinez singled to center to break up the no-hit bid, but it was the exact start the Nationals needed to go up 1-0 in the series.

Washington upset the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the NLCS for the first time in their history and will now send Max Scherzer to the mound for Game 2 on Saturday.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' win over the Cardinals in NLCS Game 1

Anibal Sanchez gave the Nationals what they needed

When thinking about particular pitching matchups in the NLCS, Cardinals fans likely circled Sanchez's name.

The 35-year-old is the one pitcher in the Nationals rotation that can be looked at as a potential weak link. Add the fact Daniel Hudson was on paternity leave for Game 1 and this felt like a chance for St Louis to both get a win and even possibly give the Nationals' bullpen some hell without one of their better relievers back there.

But Sanchez is a wily vet and the perfect example of experience in the postseason. Pitchers like CC Sabathia and Adam Wainwright on paper seem like guys who should be vulnerable in a big spot at an older age, but in actuality, they use their experience to make things happen and get big outs.

Sanchez did that and then some before handing the ball off to Sean Doolittle in the eighth inning.

Andrew Miller vs. the three-batter minimum

Baseball is all about matchups. A good pitching staff against a great lineup, a big-time closer against the heart of the order and a LOOGY against a dominant left-handed bat. These matchups are what make the game great as any one of them can determine the outcome of a game.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Andrew Miller came in to get one batter out. He was called upon to get left-haded hitting 20-year-old Juan Soto out. What happened next was an intense battle that went to a full count and resulted in Miller giving Soto his absolute best slider and sitting him down on strikes.

But after this year, this will not happen ever again because MLB has instituted a three-batter minimum. No more will be the days of the LOOGY and Miller will never get the chance to take on Soto in a high-intensity at-bat in a critical moment. Baseball is the worse for it.

Yan Gomes trade: Worth it

When the Nationals acquired Yan Gomes for two prospects in the offseason the storyline was more focused on the Cleveland Indians getting rid of payroll than it was on Washington getting a solid player, but Game 1 reminded us that Gomes is not just a trade piece, he is an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and a solid defensive catcher.

While Gomes was not great in his first season with the Nationals, he was thrust into a starting role after Kurt Suzuki was hit by a pitch on the hand and helmet in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Gomes made the most of it, going 2 for 3 with a walk and drove in the first run of the game on a double in the second inning.

If the Nationals are to go on to win this series, that is a big moment for the team. Gomes got them going and made an impact when it mattered even if he had his struggles. Often, success in the postseason can make people forget a player at his worst. Pablo Sandoval got a massive contract almost solely off playoff success.

Gomes made an impact when the Nationals needed him to. So for at least one night, acquiring him was completely worth it.

The MLB season is beyond heating up. It's all full force and drama, including a crazy day on Wednesday in which one game was over before the second out was recorded and another required extra innings.

Not all the focus has been on the action, though, as one coach was fired in MLB on Thursday while another was let go in the NFL on Monday.

And the drama continues with the Cleveland Browns, as it has all year long.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. NLCS set

The National League Championship Series is set, and if you managed to work out the teams involved, you either really know your baseball or you took a crazy guess and happened to be right.

The two participants without home-field advantage won both Game 5's on Wednesday; the Cardinals defeated the Braves 13-1 and the Nationals beat the Dodgers 7-3 in extra innings.

In the matchup between the Braves and the Cardinals, St. Louis scored seven runs before Atlanta recorded a second out in the first inning, and when the dust finally settled on the frame, the Cardinals held a 10-0 lead they were never close to letting get away.

As for the Dodgers and the Nationals, Los Angeles opened a 3-0 lead in the early going, but thanks to back-to-back home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto off Clayton Kershaw in the seventh, Washington tied the game and forced extra innings.

Howie Kendrick then smacked a grand slam off Joe Kelly with no outs in the 10th and the game was over and done with. And now, in an odd playoff scenario, the Cardinals will have home-field advantage over the Nationals despite having a worse record in the regular season. Why? Because they won their division while the Nationals were the wild-card winner.

 

2. Gruden fired by Redskins, Tomlin not thinking about job

Jay Gruden was fired by the Washington Redskins after an 0-5 start to the season and made sure everyone knew on his way out that he did not have the kind of say he wanted with the team.

"At the end of the day, if you're not the GM, you have to accept the fact that you don't get everything you want," Gruden told ESPN. "You accept the players given to you. I had input in some areas, but there are some major issues there. It is that way with most coaches. You don't have that total say. It's something you have to overcome and work with the guys you have."

After that a rumour emerged that Redskins owner Dan Snyder was interested in Mike Tomlin for the open job, but the Pittsburgh Steelers coach did not seem too worried about his current job when questioned by the media.

"I am not worried about that, to be quite honest with you. You're the first person to mention it to me in a public setting," he said.

Tomlin continued: "Guys, look: I'm the head coach of a 1-4 football team that’s going on the road to play a Hall of Fame-calibre quarterback with my third quarterback. You think I'm worried about anything this week other than that?"

 

3. Phillies fire Gabe Kapler

The Phillies technically got better this year, going 81-81 after going 80-82 in manager Gabe Kapler's first season at the helm in 2018, but that improvement was not enough as Philadelphia announced it had fired the skipper on Thursday.

"Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city," owner John Middleton said in a statement. "I will never waver from that commitment.

"During the second half of this season and continuing into this week, I have evaluated our organization extensively, a process that included talking to many people both internally and around the league. Reassuring to me was the endorsement that people outside the Phillies gave to the progress we have made recently, both organizationally and on the field.

"Nevertheless, with the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective."

It is unclear who is next in line for the Phillies, but the team is reportedly after a manager with previous experience. In that case, a guy like Brad Ausmus could be an option after he was fired by the Angels.

 

4. More drama in Cleveland

Well, it's a day of the week, so that means there is drama with the Cleveland Browns.

After the 49ers crushed the Browns on "Monday Night Football", San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman told NFL Network's Michael Silver he was upset with Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield for not shaking his hand in pre-game warmups.

But upon further review, Mayfield did shake Sherman's hand. The cornerback then said it was a petty handshake that ticked him off and has now said he will apologise to Mayfield.

Just another day in Cleveland.

The Washington Nationals reached the National League Championship Series for the first time in their history after stunning the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-3 on Wednesday.

Washington's come-from-behind victory in Game 5 midweek sealed a 3-2 NL Division Series triumph for the Nationals in the MLB playoffs.

Trailing 3-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, Washington's Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto crushed back-to-back home runs off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to tie the game. 

Fast forward to the 10, where the Dodgers intentionally walked Soto after allowing two Nationals to reach base to lead off the inning.

Former Dodger Howie Kendrick stepped in and took Joe Kelly deep to right center for a grand slam and a 7-3 lead, which proved to be the winning score.

It was a big moment for the Nationals, who were established in 2005 after the Montreal Expos were relocated – the Expos reached the 1981 Championship Series.

The Nationals will now face the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, with a World Series berth on the line.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' win over the Dodgers in NLDS Game 5

Buehler came up big for LA

Walker Buehler got the nod from manager Dave Roberts for Game 5 and boy did he deliver.

The 25-year-old surrendered just one run and four hits over 6.6 innings of work while walking three and striking out seven. Buehler also made history as he became the first pitcher ever to strike out at least seven batters in each of his first six postseason games.

Wednesday's start coupled with his performance in Game 1 (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K) gives Buehler a 0.71 ERA this postseason.

Kershaw's playoff struggles continue

While Kershaw did not start Wednesday's game, he did make an appearance after relieving Buehler in the seventh. 

Kershaw managed to get out of a jam, striking out Adam Eaton with two men on and two outs, but it only went downhill from there.

The 31-year-old allowed back-to-back home runs to Rendon and Soto in the eighth as Washington tied the game. 

Heading into the series decider, Kershaw's postseason numbers as a reliever were better than as a starter, but it was a small sample size.

It seems the Dodgers' ace just cannot find his groove when the calendar flips to October.

Nationals' postseason woes finally come to an end

Washington were eliminated in the NLDS in their last four playoff appearances (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017).

After a dramatic comeback against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL wild-card game and a victory over the Dodgers in the NLDS, Nationals fans have to be pleased with the performance of their team, especially after a 19-31 start this season.

The Washington Nationals levelled their National League Division Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers courtesy of a 6-1 win.

Washington stayed alive in the MLB playoffs as they forced a deciding Game 5 against Los Angeles on Monday.

The Nationals will now head to Dodger Stadium for Wednesday's winner-take-all clash in Los Angeles.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' Game 4 win over the Dodgers

Washington had a boost from likely ... and unlikely places

Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman entered Monday having combined for five hits and one RBI through four postseason appearances this year, but both showed up in a big way when it mattered.

Rendon, who led MLB with 126 RBIs in 2019, went one for two at the plate and drove in three runs on the night — bringing his playoff RBI total to four.

Zimmerman, on the other hand, went two for four and notched the game's lone home run. He tallied three RBIs of his own on Monday.

The Nationals might have expected Rendon to pick things up, but Zimmerman's performance was a pleasant surprise.

The Dodgers' rotation struggled to make batters miss

A host of Los Angeles pitchers were used in short stints against Washington, and none of them were able to establish much of a rhythm. The Nationals simply kept putting the bat on the ball.

The Dodgers' six pitchers only tallied five strikeouts in the contest, and their starter Rich Hill forked up four walks in 2.6 innings of work. No matter who Los Angeles put on the mound, Washington were able to make contact and that sustained their confidence until the offense really got going in the fifth inning.

A lot of runners got left on base

This game could have looked a lot different if either side were able to take advantage of runners on base, as quite a few got stranded while looking to score.

The Dodgers left 15 runners on base in the contest while the Nationals totalled 14. Both Los Angeles and Washington averaged fewer than seven runners left on base per game in 2019.

A few big hits could have helped the Dodgers flip the script, and both teams will want to eliminate their struggles to capitalise on scoring opportunities come Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Dodgers exploded for a seven-run sixth inning to beat the Washington Nationals 10-4 on Sunday.

The Dodgers got off to a slow start at the plate but eventually took a 2-1 lead over Washington in the National League Division Series (NLDS), with Game 4 set for Monday.

The Dodgers will go with Rich Hill against Max Scherzer.

 

Three takeaways from Dodgers’ win over the Nationals in NLDS Game 3

Dodgers' seventh-inning rally highlighted their ridiculous depth

The Nationals pitching staff throttled the Dodgers powerful lineup through 5.2 innings, striking out 11 batters in that span.

But an unlikely cast of characters sparked a seven-run rally in the sixth inning.

Cody Bellinger led off with a single but appeared on his way to being stranded after Patrick Corbin fanned the next two batters. Then came the unlikely rally. David Freese singled and fellow 36-year-old Russell Martin followed with a two-RBI double.

After a walk to utility man Chris Taylor, light-hitting Kike Hernandez lined another two-RBI double to left.

The Dodgers have one of the best top-to-bottom offensive lineups in baseball and opposing pitchers venture with extreme caution through the heart of the order. That the Dodgers erupted for seven runs thanks to role players such as Freese, Martin and Hernandez illustrates this team's depth. Martin later added a two-run homer and Freese finished with three hits after coming in as a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

 

Howie Kendrick's baserunning blunder might, or might not, have made a difference

Given the Dodgers' comfortable margin of victory, it might be a reach to point to one play as possibly costing the Nationals a chance at victory. But a base-running blunder might have made a difference in the outcome.

After the Dodgers scored seven in the top of the sixth, the Nats had their own rally in the bottom of the inning. With a run already in and the bases loaded and nobody out, Asdrubal Cabrera lofted a sacrifice fly to right that plated another run. Howie Kendrick, who was on second, tagged up to advance, but inexplicably stopped, then kept going. He was an easy out to complete the double play. Michael Taylor popped out to end the inning. 

It is not a reach to think that if Kendrick makes it safely to third, or even remains at second in scoring position with one out, the Nats might get another run or more in the inning, especially with the top of the lineup possibly getting a chance to come to the plate. Instead, the Nats' deflated rally left them trailing by four.

Don't count the Nationals out

The Nationals are definitely facing an uphill battle in the NLDS. FiveThirtyEight.com now gives them a 21 per cent chance of winning this series.

But people have counted out these Nationals before, only to watch their resilience.

When the Nats stumbled through most of the season's first half under .500, some counted them out. Washington righted the ship and played their way into contention.

When the Nationals had to keep winning down the stretch to make the wild-card spot, they did just that.

When the Nationals trailed Milwaukee in the wild-card game in the eighth inning, with flamethrowing closer Josh Hader on the mound for the Brewers, things seemed very dim indeed. Washington rallied to win.

It is premature to count Washington out, especially with Scherzer going in Game 4. With their ace on the mound, at home, the Nationals have a clear path to the fifth and deciding game in LA. And if the Nats can force that deciding game, there is a 100 per cent chance anything can happen.

Stephen Strasburg starred to lead the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.

The 31-year-old righty tossed six innings of one-run ball in the Nationals' victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series (NLDS). That start put him in the elitist of elite company as they levelled the series at 1-1.

In Strasburg's postseason career, he now has a 0.64 ERA which surpasses Sandy Koufax (0.94) for the lowest ERA of a starter in playoff history.

 

Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 NLDS win over Dodgers

Dodgers' decision to start Walker Buehler Game 1 was two-fold

Some people were surprised Walker Buehler got the call to start Game 1 for the Dodgers on Thursday. But we are here to tell you it was for two reasons, both of which have been clear as day in the first two games.

Buehler is the Dodgers' ace now. He has the best fastball, the best stuff and the best swing-and-miss stuff as well. While Ryu Hyun-jin is a Cy Young contender and Clayton Kershaw has three Cy Young awards, they are really just aces in name at this point. Buehler is their best.

Second, the decision was strategic. The Nationals are better against finesse pitchers and guys with average velocity than they are against hard throwers. This season Washington batted .249 against power pitchers. The Nationals hit .265 and .273 respectively against everyone else. Buehler averages 96.6mph on his fastball. Kershaw and Ryu average 90.4mph and 90.6mph respectively.

So to hear that Buehler gave up two hits and no runs in six innings of work in a 6-0 Game 1 win and Kershaw gave up six hits and three runs in six innings of work in Game 2 should not come as a surprise at all. That is not to say Kershaw is not good or that he has not struggled in the postseason, but the numbers explain a lot about these first two games. It also may provide a forecast for the Nationals' future success against Ryu in Game 3.

 

Stephen Strasburg's ridiculous off-speed pitches

It was hard not to marvel at Strasburg's curveball and his ability to use it off of his fastball to make batters look silly.

But it is not just his curveball that is unbelievable. His changeup is just as nasty.

According to Fangraphs, Strasburg threw his curveball 1,036 times in 2019. Hitters got hits 25 times in 228 official at-bats. That is a .162 batting average against. But what is even more amazing is his changeup was even more unhittable. On 701 changeups thrown this year, Strasburg allowed 16 hits in 172 at-bats for a .140 batting average against.

Did Max Scherzer find a second calling?

We know Max Scherzer is a three-time Cy Young award winner and one of the best starters in the game when he is healthy. But it was not a foregone conclusion he would be that coming out in the draft in 2006. Scherzer had a relatively high walk rate as a sophomore and a notable head whack in his delivery that often lends itself to relief pitchers in the long run.

Again though, we know who Scherzer is. But, he might have shown us what he could be if he has to take the path of John Smoltz at the end of his career in Game 2 on Friday. Scherzer came into the game in the eighth inning and was absolutely untouchable. He struck out the side and made Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson look completely silly.

While Scherzer was never destined to be a reliever, there was some truth to the fact that when he was coming out in the draft if he was not able to stick as a starter he could be a shutdown reliever in the late innings. Game 2 was living proof.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in a very familiar position after their 6-0 win over the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series (NLDS).

Los Angeles are out in front 1-0 in the NLDS for the third straight year and fourth time in the past six seasons.

Of the four series the Dodgers started 1-0, they have gone on to win all four. Now the Nationals will have to fight back with Stephen Strasburg in Game 2 on Friday.

 

Three takeaways from Dodgers' Game 1 NLDS win over Nationals

First-inning nerves cost Patrick Corbin, Nationals

Patrick Corbin's nerves very well may have cost the Nationals Game 1.

Corbin walked four batters and a run in the first inning. He is just the second pitcher in MLB history to walk four batters in the first inning of his first playoff start and the first since Art Reinhart in 1926, according to Stats.

Corbin not only gave up a run, but he threw 31 pitches which shortened his outing. He was at nearly 100 in the fifth inning. If there is one thing to point to for why the Nationals lost this game, it is easy to pick out Corbin's first inning.

 

Walker Buehler is the Dodgers' ace

On the other hand, Walker Buehler is the reason the Dodgers won the game.

Buehler was masterful, and nasty, tossing six innings while allowing one hit and no runs in the win for the Dodgers.

It came as a bit of a surprise when Buehler was named the Game 1 starter over names like Clayton Kershaw and Ryu Hyun-jin. But Buehler has been the Dodgers' best pitcher since about the middle of the 2018 season and it has everything to do with his stuff and competitiveness.

Buehler is now only 1-1 in his postseason career, but he has given up just 10 runs in 29.2 innings pitched (3.03 ERA) while striking out 37. And his start in the World Series last year against the best lineup in MLB in the Boston Red Sox was a pure masterpiece.

He was also masterful in Game 1 and is now undoubtedly the Dodgers' best pitcher. 

 

Nationals' hitting woes rear ugly head again

No matter how good the Nationals' pitching staff is, their offense has to be better than it has been since 2014 in the playoffs.

Coming into this series, over the past 15 playoff games the Nationals failed to score more than three runs seven times. Now, over their past 16 games, that number is up to eight.

Washington have tons of talent in their lineup with MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, stud youngster Juan Soto and two very good table-setters in Trea Turner and Adam Eaton, but the Nationals struggle mightily at the plate in the postseason, and through one NLDS game this year, it does not look like they learned much from years past.

The National League Division Series are set.

The Washington Nationals will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers after winning a dramatic wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3.

The St Louis Cardinals will battle the Atlanta Braves for a place in the Championship Series, and we have previewed both match-ups for you.

 

Key storylines

Will Dallas Keuchel be the key to the Braves taking the next step?

This is why the Braves went out and signed Keuchel in the middle of the season. The lefty got World Series experience with the Astros and made multiple appearances in the postseason with Houston. He gives the Braves a veteran for their rotation to send out in Game 1 of the NLDS and possibly for a second time in Game 4 or 5. But will he be what they need to advance to the next round? Or will he struggle as he did in his final few outings in the playoffs for Houston (4.43 ERA last four appearances)?

Can the Nationals hit consistently in their match-up with the Dodgers?

While Max Scherzer can catch some flak for lacklustre postseason performances with the Nationals, it has truly been the line-up that has let Washington down in the playoffs over the last few years. Since 2014, Washington have averaged 3.8 runs per game in the playoffs, scoring three runs or fewer in seven of their 15 games. The Dodgers have a solid pitching staff. Will the line-up do enough to support a rotation that will likely keep the Nationals in all of their games?

Players to watch

Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals

The 23-year-old righty might have been the best pitcher in MLB down the stretch in 2019. In the second half, Flaherty put up a 0.91 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in 99 1/3 innings. He will not get to start Game 1 on Thursday, but he will likely pitch Game 2 on Friday and will either have a chance to send the Cardinals back to St Louis tied 1-1 or up 2-0.

Kenley Jansen, CP, Dodgers

The Dodgers decided to stand pat at the deadline and did not go out and get either an additional closer in the market or at least a man who could step in and take over in case Jansen struggled. Los Angeles' closer posted a career-worst 3.71 ERA this year while blowing a career-high eight saves. This could easily be seen as an anomaly with hope that he will get over it in the playoffs, but in the last two years he has had some serious postseason breakdowns. He has posted a 3.55 ERA with four home runs allowed in nine appearances in the World Series over the last two years. Jansen struggled again during the regular season. The Nationals showed in the wild-card game they can get to good closers in the late innings. Will that factor into the series?

Predictions

Braves over the Cardinals in five games

The Braves have an odd advantage in this one: the Cardinals haven't faced Keuchel or Max Fried yet this season. The one pitcher they will definitely face in the playoffs is Mike Soroka and he dominated them to a tune of a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings (two starts) this season. But the Cardinals have had success with their pitching as well, so this will come down to the two line-ups. The Braves' line-up is better. They tasted the postseason last year and their young hitters have more experience under their belt. That will be the difference.

Nationals over the Dodgers in five games

The Nationals' starting rotation looks to strong to think they will lose with the way they are set up. The Dodgers have to face Patrick Corbin in Game 1. He shut out Los Angeles over seven innings in his lone start against them this season and the Dodgers showed massive vulnerability in match-ups against lefties in the playoffs last year. They addressed that by playing Cody Bellinger every day but this year the Dodgers were not as good against lefties as they were righties. But beyond that Los Angeles will have to face Stephen Strasburg in Game 2 and he is an absolute beast in the postseason. The Dodgers could easily be down 2-0 going back to Washington. But the Nationals still have to hit in this series. That is the x-factor. If they do not the Dodgers will win. But it is undeniable how well the Nationals' pitching sets up for the NLDS against the Dodgers.

Walker Buehler will start for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their MLB National League Division Series opener against the Washington Nationals.

Buehler will take to the mound for Thursday's game one against the Nationals, ahead of three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and 2019 contender Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The 25-year-old Buehler, who played his college baseball at Vanderbilt, went 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA this season.

Of all the Dodgers starters, he possesses the best fastball averaging 96.6 mph on his heater this year.

The Nationals were significantly better against finesse pitchers like Ryu and Kershaw this season, posting a .273 batting average against them, while batting .249 against power pitchers like Buehler.

Washington will counter with Patrick Corbin, who threw seven shut-out innings against the Dodgers in his only start against Los Angeles this year.

The Washington Nationals erased a deficit to stun the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 and advance to the MLB's National League Division Series.

Tuesday's wild-card clash saw the Nationals stage an improbably comeback in the eighth inning in front of a sold-out crowd of 42,993 at Nationals Park.

The Brewers had Josh Hader on the mound and the Nationals had the bottom of the line-up at the plate.

But Michael Taylor was hit by a pitch, Ryan Zimmerman reached on a broken-bat single and Anthony Rendon walked to load the bases.

Then Juan Soto broke the Brewers' hearts as the Nationals earned a NLDS showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

Oh no!

Oh no! Oh no!

There was no other way to react and nothing else to say in the bottom of the eighth as the Nationals batted with two outs and the bases loaded down 3-1.

First, Soto did a great job of putting the ball in play and likely tying the game with a single to right field. That was good. But here is where the "Oh no!" comes in.

Rookie Trent Grisham – who is only playing right field because Christian Yelich is sidelined for the remainder of the season due to injury — let the ball bounce off his glove and go behind him. That mistake allowed Rendon to score from first and gave the Nationals the lead.

There is nothing else to say but "Oh no!"

It was just a gut-wrenching moment for a player in Grisham who has been a great story this year. Just heartbreaking.

Baseball in 2019

If a friend of yours had no idea what baseball was like in 2019, if he or she watched the first five innings of Tuesday's game they would get a perfect microcosm of the sport today.

- The first two runs of the game were scored on a walk and a home run.
- All four runs were scored via the homer.
- Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff only threw four innings.
- Woodruff threw 19 pitches over 99 mph after throwing 29 over that speed all season.
- Eric Thames hit a home run with one arm on a curveball down and out of the zone.

Baseball is a power-hitting, hitter-friendly, quick-pull game in 2019. This is not your father's game, but it is what is in store for the 2019 postseason.

Scherzer's postseason career is beginning to look a lot like Kershaw's

There is zero doubt Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw's are Hall of Famers. They are arguably the best right- and left-handed pitchers of their generations and will go down in history among the greatest. But there is little doubt Kershaw's career is marred by mediocre playoff performances. And at this point, the same goes for Scherzer.

The three-time Cy Young winner gave up three runs in five gruelling innings for the Nationals on Tuesday and put his team in a 2-0 hole before he even got an out. Yasmani Grandal smacked a home run on the first pitch he saw after Trent Grisham walked to lead off the game.

He also put the Nationals down 3-0 before he recorded an out in the second on Thames' homer. Scherzer had been just OK with the Nationals in the playoffs coming into Tuesday's game, but after it was over his numbers were shockingly average. In five career postseason games with Washington (four starts), Scherzer has gone 0-2 with a 4.06 ERA. He has given up five home runs in 24.3 innings with 18 hits and nine walks. 

His career postseason ERA now sits at 3.82. Kershaw's sits at 4.32. Scherzer is now 4-6 and Kershaw is 9-10. These two are all-time greats, but they, unfortunately, will always be seen as pitchers who struggled in the biggest moments.

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