The most intriguing of baseball’s four division series? It has to be the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs against the Washington Nationals as storylines abound in the NLDS best-of-5. The Nationals are series favourites at Sports Interaction.
Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals
Game 1: Friday, 7:31 p.m. ET Where: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C. Series Line: Nationals -130, Cubs +100
National League Division Series Odds
Washington was 4-3 vs. Chicago this season, splitting four games at home in late June and winning two of three at Wrigley Field in early August. The Nationals’ Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, was 10-for-30 vs. Cubs pitching with a homer. Second baseman Daniel Murphy has been a Cubs-killer dating to his Mets days and hit .360 off Chicago pitching this year with three homers. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP, hit .286 with two RBIs against Washington pitching. Bryant and Harper both grew up in Las Vegas and are friends. Willson Contreras was the top Cubs hitter vs. the Nationals, batting .375 with five homers and nine RBIs.
Both the Nationals and Cubs made important moves around the July 31 trade deadline, with Washington landing a few relievers to improve what had been a leaky bullpen, and the Cubs trading for White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana. The lefty is scheduled for Game 3 on Monday.
Washington’s manager is Dusty Baker, who is largely despised in Chicago as many Cubs fans believe he “ruined” young aces Kerry Wood and Mark Pryor by overusing them. Baker was the manager of the Cubs in 2003 when they blew the NLCS against the Marlins – Game 6 was the infamous “Bartman Game.” One could argue the pressure is on the Nationals as not only has the franchise not played in a World Series, but it has lost in the NLDS in each of its three playoff trips (2016, ’14 & ’12).
Washington’s chances to win this series took a bit of a hit as two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who might win a third career award in November, suffered a “tweaked” hamstring in his final regular-season start and will be unable to pitch (at least) the first two games. The hope is Scherzer will be ready by Game 3 on Monday in Chicago. Stephen Strasburg will go in Game 1 in just his second career postseason start.
The one-time Lovable Losers ended the longest championship drought in baseball last year with their thrilling extra-innings victory in Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland. The Cubs are looking to become baseball’s first repeat champions since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. No National League team has won back-to-back World Series since the Big Red Machine in 1975-76. The Cubs had a World Series hangover in 2017 as they were two games under .500 entering the All-Star break and 5.5 games out of first in the NL Central.
Chicago had the NL’s best record in the second half. The Cubs have named Kyle Hendricks as their Game 1 starter. Since returning from a hand injury in late July, Hendricks’ 2.19 ERA is the best in the National League. The Game 1 starter likely would have been 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, who had a terrific second half himself, but he’s still recovering from a hamstring injury and is targeted for Game 4 – assuming there is one.
Cubs vs. Nationals Series Prediction
Scherzer’s injury affects this series in a big way – Cubs win in four.