Archives for posts with tag: Cardinals

The Nationals are headed to baseball’s final four for the first time since they were the Montreal Expos and needed a strike-shortened split-season to make the playoffs.  Their thrilling 7-3 tenth inning win at the Los Angeles Dodgers sends them straight to St. Louis for Friday’s Game One of the League Championship Series.  How did they get this far?  And can they make the next leap forward into the Fall Classic?

Hot Bats: Anthony Rendon is hitting .350 in the postseason, scoring a team-high six runs over six games while driving in five.  His solo homer in the eighth inning off of Clayton Kershaw got the rally in full gear.  Juan Soto has a pair of homers and six RBI, while delivering the go-ahead hit in the Wild Card Game.  And Howie Kendrick smacked the extra-inning grandslam that gave the Nats the lead and eventually the series against the Dodgers.

Cool on the Mound:  Stephen Strasburg is 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA in the playoffs, posting 21 strikeouts over 15 innings (including his relief turn in the Wild Card Game).  Max Scherzer has been a bulldog, striking out 16 over 13 frames (including a 14-pitch tour de force in the Game Two win).  Daniel Hudson has tossed 3.2 scoreless innings over four games, while earning two saves.  Sean Doolittle nailed down the 10th inning in LA.

Stats vs. St. Louis:  Howie Kendrick went 11-22 against the Cardinals this year, while Victor Robles led the Nats with three runs and four RBI.  The table-setters? Trea Turner & Adam Eaton combined to hit 9-44 (.204), while the meat of the order Anthony Rendon & Juan Soto batted 5-29 (.172) against St. Louis this season.  The second-best bat on the team this year belonged to Yan Gomes (.429), who’s currently hitting 1-6 in the playoffs but pending on Kurt Suzuki’s wrist and face may see more action than originally intended.

Conquering Cardinals:  St. Louis used a second half surge to take the NL Central, snagging the division lead for good on August 23.  They also took five of seven from the Nats:  two of three at home in September and three of four in DC during the Nationals’ injury-ravaged April (I want to say a hot dog vendor may have pitched relief).  They’re just as resilient in the postseason as the Nats, needing an extra-inning victory to force a Game Five before blowing Atlanta out.

Birds to Beware:  the numbers might be skewed a tiny bit because of the 13 runs put on the board against the Braves Wednesday.  Paul Goldschmidt and Marcel Ozuna are both hitting .429 in the playoffs, and Ozuna drove in a team-high seven runs against the Nats during the regular season.  Adam Wainwright went 2-0 with an ERA of 1.35, while Game One starter Mike Mikolas struck out eight while allowing three runs over 12 innings against the Nationals this year.

Anibal Sanchez starts Game One;  the right-hander struck out nine over five innings of one-run ball in Game Three of the NLDS.  He lost his lone regular season start to the Cardinals, but that was in April when he was off to an 0-6 start.  That was when this team was 12 games under .500;  they’re now four wins away from the franchise’s first-ever World Series appearance.

The Nationals entered September knowing they were going to play 24 of 28 games against teams with winning records, and they also knew the centerpiece of the season’s final month would involve 13 straight games against division leaders. The team is 6-8 so far this month, and while they’ve lost three of four series they’ve yet to be swept.  Last week’s 3-3 mark kept the club in the lead for the NL’s first Wild Card, although the 0-4 mark in September series openers reminds one of the first two months when the team was 2-14 in such games.  While the NL East is but a pipe dream, the Nats are still very much in the driver’s seat of the playoff race.

Meanwhile, Nationals Manager Davey Martinez left Sunday’s win over Atlanta with chest pains and was taken to a hospital.  He underwent a cardiac catheterization and will undergo more tests in the hospital.  General Manager Mike Rizzo said there is no timetable for his return, putting the team in the hands of bench coach Chip Hale for the time being.  Thoughts are with the skipper as he recovers.  

Digesting the Division- Atlanta (93-58) didn’t clinch in DC, and we’ll take that as a victory.  They did take 5 of 7 between the two teams this month and slice their magic number to four.  The Braves also own a nine game lead for the second best record in the National League, meaning their magic number to clinch home-field for the NLDS is also four.  Can they catch the Dodgers?  They trail the NL West champs by four games at this time.

The Wild, Wild Race- the Nats own a game and a half lead over the Chicago Cubs for home field.  Nationals play 8 of their remaining 14 games at home and 11 against winning clubs.  The Cubs lead Milwaukee by one game for the final playoff spot, and hte Brewers play their final 13 games of the season against sub-.500 squads.  The Mets (four games behind the Cubs) also have an advantageous schedule with 10 of 13 remaing games against losing clubs.  Philadelphia and Arizona are window dressing at this time.

O’s Woes- the Birds reach the 100-loss plateau for the second straight season, the first time that’s happened since the franchise moved to Baltimore.  Right now they trail Detroit in the race for the first overall pick in next year’s draft.  I hope they know what they’re doing from a tank standpoint.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted .211 with a homer.  The former face of the franchise is now hitting .253 with 31 HR and a career-high 102 RBI. He’s also four strikeouts shy of matching his career high of 169.

Last Week’s Heroes- Howie Kendrick batted 8-for-16 with a team-high 4 RBI while Victor Robles hit .350.  Anibal Sanchez posted two solid starts, allowing just a pair of earned runs over 14 innings. Stephen Strasburg struck out 7 over 6 frames to post his 17th win of the year.  Sean Doolittle, Javy Guerra and Daniel Hudson posted scoreless weeks out of the bullpen.

Last Week’s Humbled- Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Eric Fedde, and Aaron Barrett were each touched up on their respective ways to ERA’s of 10+.  Trea Turner hit .167, Asdrubal Cabrera went 2-for-14 while Yan Gomes batted 2-for-17.

Game to Watch- Monday Stephen Strasburg pitches the series opener against the Cardinals, who counter with 15-game winner Dakota Hudson.  If this team is going to reverse its recent slide, the series opener is a great way to start.

Game to Miss- Friday the Nats meet Miami and start Austin Voth against fellow rookie Robert Dugger. After 13 straight games against division leaders, it’s okay to take this one off.

Portions previously appearing on WTOP.COM (apologies to the late Glen Campbell)-

By the time Kirk gets to Arizona, the Redskins will be mourning the loss of a three-time 4,000-yard passer as well as their most stable quarterback situation since Joe Theismann in the mid-80’s.  Don’t blame Cousins for leaving.  He’s done nothing but do the right thing since being drafted in the fourth round in 2012.  He learned the system and competed without complaining, sitting behind the face of the franchise Robert Griffin III.  He even shined as an understudy in spot situations and was likely going to be trade bait after two or three seasons in Ashburn.  But when the Skins brass realized that RG3 was brittle beyond belief and not as good as Cousins, Kirk received a battlefield promotion from lieutenant to captain.  He’s since responded with back-to-back-to-back 4,000 yard seasons.  Previous 4,000-yard passing seasons in team history?  Only two– Jay Schroeder in 1986 and Brad Johnson in 1999.

By the time Kirk gets to Glendale, the Cardinals will be building with a new coach.  One that will be 100% behind getting a quality quarterback to throw to Larry Fitzergald the final years of the future Hall of Famer’s career.  Even with all of the quarterback issues and coaching uncertainty Arizona had this fall, they went 8-8.  He’ll be going to a team that actually plays defense (ranked sixth in the league in 2017) and was only a competent and healthy quarterback away from competing for a playoff berth.  Arizona’s been to a Super Bowl recently with Kurt Warner, and played in an NFC Championship game with Carson Palmer.  Far from being the Zeppo Marx of the NFC East, these Cardinals have won five playoff games over the last ten years.  The Redskins have appeared in a total of five postseason games since the 2000 season started.

By the time Kirk gets to Tempe, the Redskins will be waking up to the fact that the quarterback situation around the league isn’t necessarily feast-or-famine, it’s surviving-or-starving.  Is Cousins a once-in-a-generation Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers?  No.  Not even close.  But he’s worlds better than Brock Osweiller (193 yards passing plus an interception and a fumble Christmas Eve at FedEx Field) and solar systems better than Blaine Gabbert (16-of-41 passing with an interception and three fumbles the week before).  Cousins over the last three years has the sixth-highest passer rating in the NFL, trailing only Brady, Brees, Ryan, Wilson and Rodgers.  He’s proven to be more than a stop-gap measure in DC, but for some reason has not merited long term foundation money.

By the time Kirk gets to Phoenix Stadium, the Skins will realize that he actually overachieved this past fall.  Think about it- Cousins lost top targets Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to free agency only to see the offseason signing of Terrelle Pryor underwhelmed from day one.  Pryor’s season ended with injury, as did top option Jordan Reed.  Even the best receiver out of the backfield Chris Thompson didn’t make it into December.  I’m not even going to discuss the running back rotation he’s had to rely on over the years.  After the nonsense and shenanigans he’s had to deal with here, it’s nice to see Kirk find a better place and an organization who will build around and with him-as opposed to building in spite of what he brings to the table.  Hopefully the Cardinals will be adding some linemen (52 sacks allowed was the 2nd most in the league last fall) to keep Kirk upright.  Perhaps from Wichita.