The weather has finally turned, which means the long and tedious baseball regular season is finally over.
Now is when the fun begins.
For Washington Nationals fans, however, October has become a house of horrors. After shocking the baseball world in 2012 with a league-best 98 wins, the Nationals were defeated in excruciating fashion by the St Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS), three games to two. Falling to a veteran-laden squad boasting recent success wasn’t really an upset or a disappointment in the grander scheme.
The disappointments would come in 2014, when Washington fell 3-1 in the NLDS to the San Francisco Giants, and again last season, when the Nationals lost in the NDLS 3-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Three times the Nationals have entered the playoffs, and three times they have failed to advance. Apathy is growing among the fan base. Friday, Oct. 6 marks the moment where everything can change.
It will be no small feat to change that recent history. The Nationals will have to face the defending champion Chicago Cubs, who started off the season very slowly but picked up steam in the second half of the season to win the National League Central division over the Milwaukee Brewers by a comfortable margin. Their potent offense is led by 2016 MVP Kris Bryant and All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Chicago’s pitching staff has been subpar by their lofty standards, but the Nationals cannot sleep on playoff-tested veterans such as John Lackey and Jake Arrieta. Missing from last year’s World Series squad is super-closer Aroldis Chapman, who re-signed with the Yankees in the offseason. That job now goes to Wade Davis, a former World Series winner himself in Kansas City, so there aren’t many holes on the Cubs roster.
The Nationals enter the series almost fully healthy except for a slight scare with Cy Young winner Max Scherzer which happened in his final start Saturday night. Scherzer left that game in the fourth inning when he pulled up lame after throwing a pitch. Scherzer said the following day that he had only tweaked his hamstring, and that an MRI was negative.
Scherzer leads the league in strikeouts and is 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 268 strikeouts. If Scherzer stays healthy, the Nationals will win this series. If not, there will be another offseason of disappointment and questions to be answered.