Playoff Reset: The NL takes center stage today

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After we saw some thrilling action yesterday with all four playoff series, the National League takes center stage today. The Cardinals and Giants are aiming to head home with 2-0 series leads. Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Nationals will be looking to rebound after tough Game 1 losses.

As for the teams in the ALDS, they are traveling today and will resume Sunday. The Tigers and Angels are both on the brink of elimination while the Orioles and Royals are one win away from a trip to the ALCS.

The Game: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals, National League Division Series Game 2
The Time: 5:37 PM Eastern
The Place: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Tim Hudson vs. Jordan Zimmermann
The Upshot: The Nationals came into Game 1 as the trendy favorite to win the World Series, but they are now NLDS underdogs. Statistically speaking, at least. Having Jordan Zimmermann on the mound should ease the impulse to panic, though. He had a 2.66 ERA during the regular season and oh yeah, he threw the first no-hitter in team history in his most recent start last Sunday. As for Hudson, he didn’t exactly finish the season on a high note, posting an 8.72 ERA over five starts in September. It’s funny to think about it this way, but the Giants have won an NL-record nine straight postseason games dating back to 2012. If they can push it to 10 today, the Nationals are in some serious trouble.

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, National League Division Series Game 2
The Time: 9:37 PM Eastern
The Place: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
The Channel: MLB Network
The Starters: Lance Lynn vs. Zack Greinke
The Upshot: After the Cardinals staged a stunning comeback against Clayton Kershaw yesterday, the pressure is really on the Dodgers now. It helps to have another ace up your sleeve and Zack Greinke is exactly that. He has a 2.68 ERA in 60 regular season starts since joining the Dodgers and pitched well during the team’s playoff run last season. Lance Lynn is no slouch either and continues to be overlooked despite putting up some impressive numbers. He posted a career-best 2.74 ERA over 33 starts during the regular season. The phrase “must win” gets thrown around a lot in sports and often incorrectly, so I don’t want to go that far, but it’s very important for the Dodgers win this game and draw even in the series. It would be bad enough to be down 2-0 headed back to St. Louis, but Hyun-Jin Ryu is lined up to start Game 3. He hasn’t pitched in a game since September 12.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.