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NLDS Preview: Cardinals vs. Nationals


You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Cardinals and Nationals have in store for us in the National League Division Series.

The Teams

St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) vs. Washington Nationals (98-64)

The Matchups

Game 1 Sunday in St. Louis: Gio Gonzalez vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 2 Monday in St. Louis: Jordan Zimmermann vs. Jaime Garcia
Game 3 Wednesday in Washington, D.C.: Chris Carpenter vs. Edwin Jackson
Game 4 (if necessary) Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Game 5 (if necessary) Friday in Washington, D.C.

Analysis: The Nationals’ postseason rotation would obviously look far more fierce with Stephen Strasburg active, but you already knew that. And these previews are supposed to be informative. Gonzalez, a Cy Young Award candidate in the National League, posted a stellar 2.89 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 32 starts this year for the NL East champions, tallying 207 strikeouts over 199 1/3 innings. But he was almost a full run worse on the road (3.31 ERA) than at home (2.28 ERA) and he has a 4.2 career BB/9. The Cardinals, meanwhile, finished with the highest collective on-base percentage in the major leagues this season.

Beating Gonzalez in Game 1 would put the Cards in a pretty great spot. Game 2 starter Garcia has a 2.48 career ERA at home and matches up well against a Nats lineup that relies heavily on left-handed hitters Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche. There’s a decent chance that 88-win St. Louis could be up 2-0 on 98-win Washington before the five-game series shifts to the nation’s capital. You have Bud Selig to thank for that one.

The Storylines

  • The Nats beat the Cards in four out of seven games during the regular season and outscored ’em 43-40.
  • Zimmermann had a 2.36 ERA in 16 road starts this season and a 3.54 ERA in 16 starts in Washington. If the Nationals drop Game 1 at Busch Stadium, he could be a stabilizing force the next day.
  • Wainwright showed some signs of fatigue in early September, but his final regular season start was against this same Nationals team and he held them to one earned run over six innings while striking out five. He’s been telling reporters all summer that his surgically-repaired right elbow is 100 percent healthy.
  • E-Jax started opposite Wainwright in that aforementioned game, yielding eight earned runs while recording only four outs against the team he won the World Series with in 2011. That game was played at Busch Stadium. Jackson should feel a little more comfortable at home in Nationals Park for Game 3.
  • Carpenter made a surprise return to the Cardinals’ rotation in mid-September after being ruled out for the year with thoracic outlet syndrome. He looked fairly sharp in his three starts down the stretch, posting a 3.71 ERA and 12/3 K/BB ratio in 17 innings against the Cubs, Astros and Reds. The veteran righty was an animal in the postseason last October and can be effective even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
  • It’s an odd thing in a series that features big names like Matt Holliday, Ryan Zimmerman, Carlos Beltran, Jayson Werth and Yadier Molina, but the player most casual fans will tune in to see this week is the 19-year-old Harper. He registered a 1.043 OPS over his final 126 regular-season plate appearances and told CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman on Saturday that he has no nerves about playing in his first postseason game. Harper has been overshadowed somewhat this year by the Angels’ Mike Trout. With the Halos failing to make the playoffs, Bryce gets the phenom spotlight all to himself.
  • The Nationals will have a distinct advantage if these games are close in the later innings because of their dominant bullpen. Tyler Clippard struggled in September but has the goods to bounce back now that he’s been given a week of rest. Drew Storen has been exceptional his entire young career and Sean Burnett is an elite setup man. The Cards have some nice, battle-tested relievers in Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs and Lance Lynn, but there’s a clear talent discrepancy. Oh, and St. Louis will carry only one lefty in the ‘pen: Mark Rzepczynski. He had a 4.24 ERA in 46 2/3 innings during the regular season.


At the MLB level, anything can happen in a five-game series. And there’s certainly no glaring favorite here. But the Cardinals get to open with two consecutive games at home, where they were 50-31 this season. A quick two-game lead would put the younger, less experienced Nationals roster on the ropes.


Mets’ Curtis Granderson wins 2016 Roberto Clemente Award

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 02:  Curtis Granderson #3 of the New York Mets looks on during batting practice before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on July 2, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson has been named the 2016 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, an annual distinction bestowed on the major league players whose dedication to the game of baseball is evident both on and off the field.

Granderson is the 47th recipient of the award since its introduction in 1971, and, according to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the fourth Met honored with the distinction following former members Gary Carter (1989), Al Leiter (2000), and Carlos Delgado (2006).

The 35-year-old contributed 30 home runs and a .237/.355/.464 line during the Mets’ 87-75 run in 2016, but it was his work off the field that set him apart. Over the past six years, Granderson helped fund a new baseball facility at his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and partnered with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to combat childhood obesity. He has also been recognized for donations to the YMCA, United Neighborhood Houses, and City Harvest, among other charitable organizations. Most notably, he founded the Grand Kids Foundation, an organization that has furthered the education, fitness, and health of kids living in Chicago since 2007.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recognized Granderson’s efforts in a brief ceremony preceding Game 3 of the World Series:

Curtis Granderson is an outstanding ambassador for our game and a positive role model for kids. His commitment to the many communities that have touched his life and the great impact of these efforts makes him a very deserving recipient of our most prestigious award. On behalf of Major League Baseball and all of our clubs, I congratulate Curtis and thank him and all of our nominees this year for everything they do to make a difference in the lives of others.

Joe Maddon’s biggest influence? Michael Scott, naturally

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  Manager Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs speaks to the media before the game in Game Three of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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We all get inspiration from various sources. Sometimes, it comes from a mentor or peer who has excelled in their field. Sometimes, it’s a video of a dog owner dressing up as his golden retriever’s favorite chew toy (just me? Okay).

If you’re Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon, it’s Michael Scott, regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, Inc., founder of the Michael Scott Paper Company, and one-time star of the hit television show Fundle Bundle. At least, that’s what he told the press during the club’s pregame conference on Friday afternoon.

Thankfully, the Cubs don’t have to worry about Maddon emulating the more outlandish behaviors Steve Carell exhibited on The Office. If anything, the praise Michael heaps on himself as the World’s Best Boss could be aptly applied to Maddon’s managerial style — Spencer Gifts mug and all.