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Playoff Reset: Dodgers vs. Nationals NLDS Game 1

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The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Washington Nationals, NLDS Game 1
The Time: 5:30 PM EDT
The Place: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) vs. Max Scherzer (Nationals)

The Upshot:

  • Max Scherzer (20-7,  2.96 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw ( 12-4, 1.69 ERA)? Yes please. One of the top Cy Young candidates for 2016 and the league leader in strikeouts facing off against the best pitcher on the planet is my kind of party. Kershaw is 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 14 games against Washington in his career and faced them once this season, allowing one run on seven innings in June. A couple of Nats — Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman — hit Kershaw pretty well. Most others don’t. Scherzer has faced Los Angeles ten times in his career, but not even once this season.
  • After the aces, things get a lot more uncertain for each team. Dusty Baker has been cagey about his rotation, but will probably go with Tanner Roark in Game 2 and then Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross. Although if their backs are up against the wall, Baker may call on Scherzer on short rest for a Game 4. The loss of Stephen Strasburg is looming large. For L.A., Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda are named for Games 2 and 3. Game 4, if necessary, would feature either Julio Urias or a short-rest Kershaw, again, depending on the state of the world.
  • Health is definitely an issue for Washington. I just mentioned Strasburg. Wilson Ramos, the catcher on whose offense the Nats so greatly depended for much of the season, is out for the duration with a torn knee ligament. 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper is in the lineup but has fought all manner of ailments this season and has not been himself at the plate. Infielder Daniel Murphy, who just missed snagging the batting title after hitting .347 this year, has missed the past couple of weeks with a strained glute, but he took BP and ran a bit yesterday and is expected to play.
  • There are a lot of familiar faces on these two teams, from Kershaw to Scherzer, Adrian Gonzalez to Jayson Werth, Yasiel Puig to Bryce Harper and so on. But one person you may not know unless you watched a lot of Nats games this year is a rookie, Trea Turner, who may have a bigger impact than anyone in either lineup. Turner, the Nats’ center fielder and leadoff hitter, hit .342 with 13 homers and 33 steals in 39 attempts in 73 games after his midseason callup. The Nats are really going to want Turner to get on base and distract Kershaw as much as possible.
  • Both of these teams have playoff demons to exercise. The Dodgers have won the past four NL West titles, but could not get past the NLCS in 2013 and have been bounced from the NLDS each of the past two seasons. The Nationals, for their part, won NL East titles in 2012 and 2014 but failed to advance past the NLDS. One of these two teams has to win this series, right?

Like the two ALDS pairings, this one is a pretty even match. Today we’ll see two of the best pitchers in baseball go at it. After that things get a little more . . . uncertain.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.