NL Wild-Card Preview
The 2019 MLB postseason will begin Tuesday with the National League wild-card game in Washington, D.C., as the Milwaukee Brewers take on the Washington Nationals. The road to this game was not easy for either team, as the NL as a whole stayed competitive throughout all 162 games this season. Milwaukee comes in at 89-73, falling just one game short of the NL Central division title, which was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals finished the regular season 93-69: an impressive first season after the departure of superstar Bryce Harper, but still four games shy of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
The Nationals didn’t miss a beat after losing Harper, as another star stepped up in our nation’s capital. Anthony Rendon led the Nationals offensive unit with a .319 batting average, 34 home runs and 126 runs batted in. Juan Soto also had 34 homers and 110 RBIs in just his second season in the major leagues. The biggest weakness of the Nationals is their bullpen. The Nationals bullpen ranked dead last in the MLB in terms of overall play with a 5.66 ERA, only 501 strikeouts, and 219 walks issued. However, a strong performance from the bullpen may not be necessary in the wild-card game. Washington’s starting ace Max Scherzer will take the mound Tuesday night with a 2.92 ERA and 251 strikeouts on the year. Scherzer is 4-5 at home this year with a 3.16 ERA, but you can almost be certain that he will deliver a strong outing in a winner-takes-all game in front of his home crowd.
The Brewers are probably the most improbable playoff team this year. They were led by Christian Yelich, who was the favorite for NL MVP for the majority of the season. However, Yelich suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sept. 10. Yelich led the Brewers in every category, batting .329 with 44 home runs and 97 RBIs. Surprisingly enough, when Yelich went down, the Brewers only got hotter. They would go on to win 13 of their last 17 games to clinch a playoff spot. Milwaukee will send Brandon Woodruff to the mound to start, but don’t expect him to stay there for very long. This will only be Woodruff’s third start since going on the injured list in July, and manager Craig Counsell stated that he won’t be pitching normal starter length. If he’s pulled early, the Brewers could still be in good hands, as Milwaukee’s bullpen posted a 4.39 ERA in the regular season along with 50 saves. Throw in the fact that bats should stay hot, even against Scherzer, and the Brewers have a very real chance of winning this game.
The Nationals are the more stacked team, but the Brewers are on a hot streak right now, despite getting swept in their final regular season series against the Rockies. If the Nationals choose to use another starter after Scherzer, they should win with ease. If not, it could be a long night for the team that hasn’t gotten past the divisional round since moving to D.C. in 2005. There’s a decent chance that we will see an appearance from Stephen Strasburg later in the game to seal the deal for the Nationals.
Prediction: Washington 5, Milwaukee 2
Danny Murray is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.