The Nationals had the worst bullpen ERA during the regular season. But now, they’ve stolen wins against both the Dodgers and Astros in the postseason.
Leaning heavily on starting pitching in the NLDS against the Dodgers and in the NLCS against the Cardinals, the Nationals were ready to let their Game One starter Max Scherzer go as long as he could to start their first ever World Series.
He only lasted five innings, though he held the potent ‘Stros lineup to just two runs. That’s not an ideal line for Scherzer, but he kept his team in the game against arguably the game’s best starter today in Gerrit Cole.
Even though the Astros scored a pair of runs in the final four innings of the game, the Nationals did enough on offense against Cole to make that acceptable, but it is tough to understand how the Nationals have been able to keep two of the game’s best teams from driving in runs late in the game.
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For both the Astros and the Dodgers, their best hitters were mostly shut down by starting pitchers, but once the bullpen of Washington comes in, there’s simply not enough time left in the game for even the best offenses to put up numbers.
Part of that is because the Nationals starters have also been pitching out the bullpen to supplement their one glaring weakness. Scherzer threw a scoreless inning in relief against the Dodgers, and even though Corbin struggled at times during the NLDS, he shut down the Astros for a scoreless sixth inning of relief.
Even though Tanner Rainey and Daniel Hudson gave up runs in their appearances in Game One, they really did limit the damage against the Astros. As a team, the Nationals stranded 25 Houston baserunners while they only left 12 of their own on base.
That disparity was the key. The Astros loaded the bases against Hudson in the eighth inning with two outs, and Sean Doolittle came in and knocked out Michael Brantley. The Nationals were able to do the same against talented left-handed hitters like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager in big spots. In Game Four of the NLDS, the Nationals stranded 14 Dodgers baserunners, and in Game Five the Nats stranded 13 more.
As long as Doolittle and Hudson are able to stay fresh, and Corbin as well, the Nationals should be able to stay in the game even once the starters come out of the game.