It's going to be hard to top the first playoff game involving National League teams, but with four quality teams competing in the National League Divisional Series, there will be plenty of excitement.
The Arizona Diamondbacks survived a 19-run thriller at Chase Field to advance to the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have home-field advantage in the NL. The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have been locked in to play each other for a week, and now we only have to wait until Saturday for the hype to switch to excitement on the diamond.
The Dodgers appear to be the favorites to make it all the way to the World Series, but they're also playing with a ton of pressure and expectation on their shoulders, as are the Nationals. That could let the defending World Series champion Cubs or the wild-card Diamondbacks to ruin their respective seasons.
|Cubs vs. Nationals Schedule|
|Game 1||Friday, October 6||Cubs at Nationals||7:31 p.m. ET||TBS|
|Game 2||Saturday, October 7||Cubs at Nationals||5:38 p.m. ET||TBS|
|Game 3||Monday, October 9||Nationals at Cubs||TBD||TBS|
|Game 4 (if necessary)||Tuesday, October 10||Nationals at Cubs||TBD||TBS|
|Game 5 (if necessary||Thursday, October 12||Cubs at Nationals||TBD||TBS|
|Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks Schedule|
|Game 1||Friday, October 6||Diamondbacks at Dodgers||10:31 p.m. ET||TBS|
|Game 2||Saturday, October 7||Diamondbacks at Dodgers||9:08 p.m. ET||TBS|
|Game 3||Monday, October 9||Dodgers at Diamondbacks||TBD||TBS|
|Game 4||Tuesday, October 10||Dodgers at Diamondbacks||TBD||TBS|
|Game 5||Thursday, October 12||Diamondbacks at Dodgers||TBD||TBS|
Odds to make World Series (via Oddsshark)
Los Angeles Dodgers: +333
Washington Nationals: +700
Chicago Cubs: +800
Arizona Diamondbacks: +1400
Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
The series that opens in Washington, D.C. on Friday pits the defending champions against a team looking to finally live up to expectations in the postseason.
The Chicago Cubs, who ended their 108-year curse a year ago with a magical postseason run, come into the NLDS with less pressure than 2016. They'll hope Kyle Hendricks gets them off to a great start at Nationals Park.
The Cubs released their starting rotation up to Game 4 via their official Twitter account:
Chicago Cubs @Cubs
Your #Cubs NLDS Game 1 starter: @kylehendricks28 Game 2: @JLester34 Game 3: @jose_quintana24 Game 4 (if necessary): @JArrieta34 https://t.co/txCQ7DawyJ2017-10-4 17:38:01
On the other hand, the Nationals have not named their rotation for the entire series.
Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported that general manager Mike Rizzo expects the team to name the Game 1 starter at the least by Thursday, with Stephen Strasburg expected to get the ball for Friday's opener:
Chelsea Janes @chelsea_janes
Rizzo said he expects Nats to name Game 1 starter Thursday, and maybe 1-3. No update on Scherzer, who has not thrown yet.2017-10-4 16:10:39
Chelsea Janes @chelsea_janes
Sense continues to be Strasburg will pitch Game 1. Rizzo called it "not quite confirmed" when asked directly. So that's where we are.2017-10-4 16:20:14
One of the biggest spotlights in the series will be focused on the bullpen, an area of the roster the Nationals improved immensely throughout the season with the additions of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. The Cubs have a strong relief unit of their own led by closer Wade Davis.
If either offense is going to get anything going at the plate, it will most likely occur during the first five or six innings before the bullpens enter to shut down the games. While it may seem like every game in this series will be a pitching duel, that was not the case during the regular-season meetings between the two teams.
During the most recent three-game series at Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Nationals combined for 30 runs, and the four-game series at the end of June at Nationals Park featured a combined 37 runs. Both teams have improved since their last regular-season meeting, but it feels like whoever has the lead entering the seventh inning should be able to close out the game.
Series Prediction: Cubs over Nationals in 5.
Series Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers appear to be set up for a deep run in the postseason thanks to the moves they made at the trade deadline and the development of their farm system over the last few years. It comes as no surprise that Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1, while Rich Hill and Yu Darvish are set for Games 2 and 3, per Dodger Insider on Twitter:
Dodger Insider @DodgerInsider
Roberts confirms Rich Hill will pitch Game 2, Darvish Game 3, as expected.2017-10-4 00:06:38
With plenty of rest in hand and a tremendous rotation, the Dodgers could easily take the first two games of the NLDS from the Diamondbacks, but their divisional foe enters Friday with a boatload of momentum.
The Diamondbacks used their speed and the gaps in the outfield at Chase Field to hit four triples in their 11-8 win over the Colorado Rockies. They became the third team in postseason history to achieve the feat, per ESPN Stats and Info on Twitter:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Diamondbacks: 3rd team in MLB history to record 4 triples in a postseason game. They have never had 4 triples in a regular-season game. https://t.co/mWIOO7BzFu2017-10-5 03:49:24
One of the biggest concerns for the Diamondbacks will the stability of the bullpen, with the shaky-at-times Fernando Rodney in the closer role and the unknown status of Zack Greinke, who might be used earlier than expected after a short outing on Wednesday night.
The Diamondbacks certainly have the bats to keep pace with the Dodgers with a lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, but holding a lead or playing catch up against the Dodgers pitching staff will be a tough task.
Series Prediction: Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 4.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.