Washington Nationals: 5 x-factors in NLDS vs. Cubs

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs talk during their game at Nationals Park on June 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs talk during their game at Nationals Park on June 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Matt Albers

The postseason is a completely different beast than the regular season, and managers must utilize their bullpens accordingly. Last October, we saw Terry Francona use Andrew Miller in many different situations, which contributed to their deep postseason run.

However, Sean Doolittle, the Nats’ closer, is unable to throw more than one inning due to a history of arm injuries, which is where Matt Albers comes into play.

After not making the team out of Spring Training, Albers got an opportunity due to injuries and has not looked back. The 34-year-old reliever pitched to a 1.62 ERA in 63 games this season, and even recorded two saves in the process.

His 1.62 ERA also ranked third-best among qualified NL relievers; not too shabby for a guy who got cut in Spring Training.

Now Albers is arguably the Nats’ most important reliever. In a bullpen, featuring Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler, Albers is the x-factor.

Albers is exceptionally versatile, as he succeeded in every role from long-man to closer this season. This makes him an invaluable asset in the postseason, when all defined bullpen roles go out the window.

If Albers is able to fill an Andrew Miller-type role, it allows Kintzler, Madson, and Doolittle to remain in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, which has worked tremendously well. Although Albers may not look the part, he is one of the most important players on the Nationals’ roster.

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