The Washington Nationals need two wins in five National League Championship Series games to secure their first World Series appearance.
The Nationals play the next three contests on home soil, where they have two victories against a pair of foes this postseason. The St. Louis Cardinals performed well on the road in the NLDS versus the Atlanta Braves, but they need a much better effort at the plate to win a single game.
Washington is a significant favorite to advance to the Fall Classic at -600 (bet $600 to win $100), while the Cardinals are underdogs at +450 (bet $100 to win $450), per Caesars.
Game 3: Monday, October 14 (7:38 p.m. ET, TBS)
Game 4: Tuesday, October 15 (8:05 p.m. ET, TBS)
Game 5: Wednesday, October 16 (4:08 p.m. ET, TBS)*
Game 6: Friday, October 18 (8:08 p.m. ET, TBS)*
Game 7: Saturday, October 19 (8:08 p.m. ET, TBS)*
Both pitching staffs have limited their opponents' run production, but the big difference lies in hits. Washington has 17 base knocks compared to four from St. Louis. Two of the quartet have come off Jose Martinez's bat.
Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong are the other two Cardinals with hits, and neither made a major impact for Mike Shildt's side since they reside on opposite ends of the order.
DeJong is one of four St. Louis players who has gone down on strikes three times, with Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Marcell Ozuna the others.
The task at the plate will not get easier with Stephen Strasburg pitching Game 3, but the Cardinals know they have to find a way to make adjustments, as Kolten Wong noted to MLB.com's Anne Rogers:
"We're obviously struggling. If you get no-hit for seven innings two nights in a row, you're struggling. It's common sense. But it's baseball. You're hitting a round ball with a round bat, and these guys are dang good at throwing that round ball. So we've got to make a little more adjustments, shorten up a little bit and get back to our small ball game. We know we're a good small-ball team, figuring out how to get in position for the guys to drive us in. We've got to figure out how to get on base."
If the Cardinals turn things around, they could vault back into the series since their pitchers have turned in solid performances. Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright combined for 18 strikeouts while holding Washington to four earned runs.
Game 3 starter Jack Flaherty gave up four earned runs in two road NLDS starts, while Dakota Hudson, who conceded a single run over 4.2 innings in NLDS Game 4, is in line to start Tuesday. If the two starters replicate their NLDS form, St. Louis has a chance to get back in the series by way of two or three clutch hits.
In Strasburg's two regular-season starts versus his NLCS foe, the two teams combined for nine runs, and he struck out 15 in 11.2 innings.
If you combine that with Flaherty's second-half form, we could see yet another low-scoring contest Monday.
At this point, Washington's offense is the one to trust to come up with a hit in a pressure-packed scenario. Seven Nationals have multiple hits in the series, with Trea Turner leading the way with three.
However, there are still ways for Washington to get better, as Juan Soto is 1-of-9 with five strikeouts, and it has left 18 runners on base. If the Nationals are better at capitalizing on their scoring opportunities, we could see more runs from a team that posted 10 at home in the NLDS.
A better offensive efficiency adds to the high probability Dave Martinez's side will represent the National League in the World Series, but they can't get complacent just because they are up 2-0.