In beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-0, in a one-game playoff Wednesday night, the San Francisco Giants looked a lot like the team that won World Series championships in 2010 and 2012.
They got great pitching from Madison Bumgarner (10 strikeouts in a four-hit, complete-game shutout), they got timely hitting (Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam off Edinson Volquez to give the Giants a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning), and they played add-on late in the game (Bradon Belt combined for three RBIs in the sixth and seventh innings).
In short, the Giants looked awfully dangerous.
But if you think the Washington Nationals – who host the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday – are scared, you had better think again.
“If you just look at the matchup on paper, the Nationals are a better team,” Fox Sports 1 MLB analyst Gabe Kapler said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “You think about the starting pitchers that they’re going to throw out: (Stephen) Strasburg, (Jordan) Zimmerman and (Doug) Fister, 1-2-3. Bumgarner’s not going to start until Game 3. (Tim) Hudson and (Jake) Peavy (are) at the top of the rotation (for the Giants). These are good pitchers, but they’re simply not as good as the Nationals on paper.”
Strasburg, Zimmermann and Fister were all splendid for the Nationals this year. Strasburg went 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA and 242 strikeouts, Zimmermann went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA and 182 strikeouts, and Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.08 WHIP – which was particularly impressive given that he finished with just 98 strikeouts.
Just how good are the Nationals? Tanner Roark, a 15-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA, will serve as the long man out of the bullpen. For just about any other team in baseball, Roark is a front-of-the-rotation guy. In Washington, he’s watching games from the outfield.
“The Nationals’ pitching staff is deep,” Kapler said. “On top of that, their offensive prowess is significant.”
The Nationals finished in the top 10 in baseball this year in runs (4.2 per game), OBP (.321) and slugging(.393) and were 12th in batting average (.253). Adam Laroche, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon all hit at least 20 home runs and finished with at least 80 RBIs.
Washington also went 51-30 at Nationals Park, which tied for the best home record in the NL.
“Their defense is good across the board,” Kapler added. “And when you (throw in the mismatch) from a pitching standpoint, just on paper, you have a better club in the Washington Nationals.”
Fridays first pitch is slated for 3:07 p.m. ET.