Posted on October 10, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Chicago Cubs NLDS

Image via si.com

In a good old-fashioned pitchers duel, the Chicago Cubs managed to squeak out a 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS, giving the Cubs a 2-1 series lead. Neither team has woken up offensively in this series, although Anthony Rizzo may be one of the few exceptions. A bloop hit from Rizzo was the difference in this game. The power-hitting first baseman now has five RBIs in three postseason games, and he’s put the Cubs one game away from returning to the NLCS heading into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Wrigley Field.

What A Waste

This was Washington’s chance to take a series lead and at least ensure there’s a Game 5 back in Washington, but the Nationals let it go to waste. Despite concerns about his hamstring, Max Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning. However, as soon as Scherzer gave up his first hit of the game, Nationals manager Dusty Baker pulled him from the game. In some instances, that move would have made sense. However, Washington’s bullpen has been a weakness all season, and so taking Scherzer out of the game in favor of any reliever at that point was a questionable move. It may have cost the Nationals the game and it could end up costing them the series.

Pitching Matchup

Facing elimination, the Nationals will turn to Tanner Roark in Game 4. Roark was brilliant in 2016 but took a step backward this season, going 13-11 with a 4.67 ERA. However, he was considerably better during the second half of the season, including an August start at Wrigley Field that he won after giving up two runs on five hits over 6.1 innings. Roark has also made three previous postseason appearances, posting a 3.86 ERA across seven innings of work, so he shouldn’t be affected by a hostile playoff atmosphere.

The Cubs will counter with Jake Arrieta, who was arguably their best starter during the regular season. Arrieta has been hampered over the past month by a sore hamstring, as he made just three starts in September, and in two of those starts, he was limited to three innings or less. But Arrieta has pronounced himself healthy to pitch Game 4. Also, prior to the hamstring becoming an issue in September, Arrieta was electric throughout July and August after a mediocre first half. If he can return to the form he had in July and August, Arrieta is capable of being the same pitcher he’s been the past two postseasons, going 4-2 with a 3.64 ERA.

X-Factor

In just a few games, Daniel Murphy has gone from key player to X-factor. Murphy is just 1 for 11 in three games against the Cubs, which is a big reason why the Nationals have struggled to get going offensively. With Bryce Harper coming back from injury, Washington needs Murphy to step up and be the biggest difference maker in the middle of the lineup. In his career against Arrieta, Murphy is 5 for 17 (.294), and two years ago in the NLCS, Murphy hit a two-run home run against Arrieta to lead the Mets to a win. Now the Nationals need him to come up big for them to help keep their season alive.

Prediction

These two teams are so evenly matched that this series just has to go five games. With Arrieta’s hamstring issues and lack of work down the stretch, there’s a good chance that he’s off his game, allowing the Nationals to get going offensively. That may be the glimmer of hope that Washington needs to extend the series. The Nationals win 6-3.

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