Are the Nats at their best? No. Definitely not. All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos tore his ACL, so he’s out. At one point this year, he was the second best hitter in the majors.
Daniel Murphy, a definite MVP candidate who had a strained muscle in his glute, is targeting a Game 1 return, but nothing is certain yet. Stephen Strasburg, a serious Cy Young Award candidate before his injury, has been ruled out for the NLDS and probably the NLCS, if the Nationals advance. Last year’s MVP Bryce Harper is still not healthy after injuring his thumb on an awkward slide into third base.
So no. The Nats are not at full-strength. Facing a Dodgers team with veterans like Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Chase Utley, and Adrian Gonzalez, and probable Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, the Nats are up against a serious championship contender.
The Nationals announced Scherzer as their Game 1 starter and Roark for Game 2 but haven’t announced their Game 3 starter. The Dodgers announced Kershaw as their Game 1 starter, Rich Hill as their Game 2 starter, and Kenta Maeda as the starter for Game 3.
The Nats’ Game 3 starter will most likely be Gio Gonzalez. As for Game 4, if necessary? All eyes will be looking to Joe Ross, the 22-year-old whom D.C. loves.
Scherzer will stand out in Game 1, giving the Nats a 4–1 win, pitching six strong innings while giving up just one run and striking out nine. Harper will be the MVP of the series after hitting four home runs, with a batting average of .360. Rendon will stand out, with a batting average of .350 with five RBIs. The Nats bullpen will go two innings, and Mark Melancon will finish off the Dodgers.
Roark will pitch the Nats to a Game 2 win with a 2–0 shutout. He will go seven innings, striking out seven and allowing four hits. The Nats bullpen will pitch a scoreless inning, and Mark Melancon will close it out.
In Game 3, the Nats will fall 7–4, with Gonzalez giving up five runs in five innings and Kenta Maeda pitching the Dodgers to a win.
Ross will win the series for the Nats. In Game 4, he will beat the Dodgers 5–3, going seven or eight innings and allowing two runs, striking out four, and giving up seven hits. The Nats will move on to play the Cubs in the NLCS.
Photographs by (from top): Mitchell Layton/Getty Images; Stephen Dunn/Getty Images