The opening game of the NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals is an opportunity to see what might be the best pitchers duel in the National League: Clayton Kershaw facing Max Scherzer.
Besides the incredible amount of strikeouts we’re about to see, there’s another interesting factor. Both teams have been huge underachievers in recent years, usually doing extremely well in the regular season, only to fall flat on their face once the playoffs begin.
Regular season: The Dodgers certainly have the Nats number this season. They swept Washington in June, three-for-three playing on the West Coast. A month later in DC the Dodgers took 2-of-3, overall winning five of their six games against Washington this season.
Starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw is back from his injury just in time. The three-time Cy Young winner did get selected to the All-Star game this season, but missed a big chunk of games, denying him what would have been another Cy Young award and who knows, maybe an MVP. He had a 1.69 ERA and a crazy 15.64 SO/BB ratio. He pitched five times in September, never more than 7 innings, but seems ready for the postseason workload. He had a strong appearance against the Nationals in June, striking out 8 batters in 7 innings, giving up just one run. No Nationals batter has an average higher than .333 vs Kershaw.
Max Scherzer will be on the mound when the Nationals defend. He pitched more innings than anyone in the National League this season, striking out more batters than anyone, and finishing with the best WHIP in the NL, 0.968. He led the NL in SO/BB ratio. One batter Scherzer has had problems with before is Josh Reddick who is 5-for-11 against Scherzer. Andre Ethier is the only Dodgers player with a home run vs Scherzer.
Hot bats: The Nationals have been cruising since clinching the NL East. One player who has been in fine form recently is Trea Turner, with a 1.009 OPS through the last 24 games, hitting 7 home runs while batting .337. The Dodgers have also been inconsistent in terms of batting. Justin Turner has the highest OPS on the team over the last 30 days, batting .300 with two home runs in his last 22 appearances.