Posted on October 9, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
If you haven’t been able to stay up late enough to watch, you’ve missed a compelling series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals that is now headed to a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night. The Dodgers have been favorites to win the National League pennant all season, but they’ve been unable to dispose of the Nats, only earning a split of the two games in Los Angeles and failing to close out the series on the road in Game 4. Now it’s a winner-take-all scenario in Wednesday’s Game 5.
Through four games, it’s been the veterans on both teams that have stood out the most. For the Nationals, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman have combined for seven hits and seven RBIs. Young shortstop Trea Turner has helped set the table, going 6 for 17 with three doubles against Los Angeles pitching. But the Nationals have leaned on Rendon and Zimmerman to provide the big hits with runners on base.
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For the Dodgers, Justin Turner has once again taken center stage in the postseason, hitting two doubles and two home runs over the first four games of the series. Max Muncy has also been huge, hitting two home runs and driving in five runs. David Freese has also surprised everyone, going 4 for 7. Meanwhile, the likes of Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Will Smith have yet to put their stamp on the series.
Walker Buehler will get the ball for the Dodgers in Game 5 after shutting out the Nationals for six runs in Game 1. He allowed just one hit and three walks over those six innings while striking out eight, dominating the Washington lineup at Dodger Stadium. Buehler will be looking to replicate that performance after getting the nod over Clayton Kershaw, who would have been available to start Game 5 on regular rest. Of course, Kershaw will be available coming out of the bullpen, so he’s likely to play a role in the series-deciding game.
Meanwhile, the Nationals will be going back to Game 2 starter Stephen Strasburg in Game 5. Strasburg has been the winning pitcher in two of Washington’s three postseason wins this year. He pitched three shutout innings out of the bullpen against the Brewers in the Wild Card Game. After just two days rest, Strasburg struck out 10 while allowing just one run over six innings against the Dodgers. He’ll head back to the mound on regular rest for Game 5.
The X-factor in Game 5 could be Los Angeles outfielder A.J. Pollock. He’s 0 for 12 in the postseason thus far and was left out of the Game 4 starting lineup. However, while most of the Dodgers have struggled against Strasburg in their career, Pollock is 7 for 14 with four extra-base hits against him during the regular season. The Los Angeles left-handed contingent of Seager, Muncy, Bellinger, and Joc Pederson began the playoffs a combined 4 for 48 against Strasburg, so the Dodgers will need to get their offense from somewhere else.
The bullpen remains too much of a problem for the Nationals to win this game. Even if they get six or seven good innings from Strasburg, Daniel Hudson is the only reliever the Nationals can rely on right now. On the other hand, the Dodgers can send Kershaw to the mound out of the bullpen on regular rest to form the bridge between Buehler and closer Kenley Jansen. That will end up being the difference in the game and send the Nationals home with another NLDS loss. Los Angeles wins 4-2.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.