Washington Nationals: Predictions for Cubs-Nats NLDS

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Brian: Nationals in 4

Cubs-Nationals could be the most star-studded series of the entire postseason, with up to 21 former All-Stars expected to play a major role (not including possible MVP Anthony Rendon).

The pieces are certainly there for Chicago to advance to their third straight NLCS. The Cubs put together a remarkable second-half turnaround (108-win pace vs. a 79-win pace before the break), and Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are two in-their-prime sluggers. Joe Maddon’s bullpen matchup game is ideal for playoff baseball, and Chicago’s roster is battle-tested following their wild World Series comeback win in 2016.

On the other side, a postseason cloud seemingly hangs over the Nationals, while injuries have worn down the entire organization.

Still, I’m sticking with Washington to take this series. The Max ScherzerStephen Strasburg duo is the best one-two punch in baseball. Bryce Harper can carry a team for an entire month. The bullpen, once a dumpster fire, is now a strength.

Chicago’s top horses, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, have shown signs of age and fatigue following the team’s deep 2016 run. The Cubs’ bullpen is vulnerable, and owns a 4.56 ERA since the All-Star break. Bryant and Rizzo can rake, but the surrounding parts do not match up with the Nationals’ offensive depth.

The Cubs are a legitimate October test, and in a five-game series, one bounce can flip the outcome. But in the end, Washington’s superior rotation, lineup, bullpen, and bench will prove too much for the defending champs.