Look for Turner to set tempo
The only hitter in the Washington Nationals lineup who hasn’t faced Kyle Hendricks in his career is the leadoff hitter, Trea Turner. Remember Turner was on the disabled list in the last Nats-Cubs matchup and wasn’t in the majors when Hendricks faced them a year ago.
If the Nats want to get off to a fast start, it might literally have to be Turner’s speed that will have to steal them a run or two early. Out of the 13 steals the Washington Nationals had against the Cubs in 2017, seven of them were by Turner.
The problem for Turner in this game might be that Hendricks doesn’t walk a lot of hitters. In 24 starts, the right-hander had just 40 walks and his 19 walks after the break were the fewest in the Cubs rotation.
With Hendricks’ go-to pitch being the changeup, Turner hasn’t been fooled by many of those pitches this year. He has just eight strikeouts on that pitch despite a .255 batting average (Brooks Baseball). But, can he stay patient enough to work a walk and get a rally started that way?
Last postseason, Turner didn’t get a hit in Game 1 (0-for-5), but went on to go 6-for-14 in the next three games. If he can go on that kind of stretch to start the series, this offense will get a run or two early to boost the crowd.
Walks will be key because if Turner can get on base, he has a good chance to steal a base against Hendricks. This year, teams are 13-for-17 stealing on Hendricks, but he also has a team-high seven pickoffs. It will be up for Turner and first base coach Davey Lopes to decide when is a good time to run.