The Washington Nationals (93-69) pulled off a major upset to advance to the 2019 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Nationals are currently 4/1 odds to win the World Series. Only the Cardinals stand in the Nats way of a NLCS title and a berth in the World Series.

Max Scherzer Washington Nationals NLCS 2019
Max Scherzer and his Washington Nationals teammates celebrate defeating the LA Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS at Dodger Stadium. (Image: Mark J. Terrill/AP)

No one could have predicted the Nationals and Cardinals (91-71) would be slugging it out in the 2019 NLCS. The best-of-seven series begins Friday night with Game 1 in St. Louis. Washington, the NL wild-card winner, is the slight favorite to win the NLCS.

Everyone got thrown two curveballs with the Cardinals and Nationals fighting for a spot in the World Series. The Nationals started the season 19-31 and now, they’re four wins away from the World Series. Whatever deal manager Dave Martinez made with the devil over Memorial Day weekend must have worked. The Nats won 66.6 percent of their games since their low point of the season.

11 OCT Game 1 Washington at St. Louis
12 OCT Game 2 Washington at St. Louis
14 OCT Game 3 St. Louis at Washington
15 OCT Game 4 St. Louis at Washington
16 OCT Game 5 St. Louis at Washington **
18 OCT Game 6 Washington at St. Louis **
19 OCT Game 7 Washington at St. Louis **
** if necessary

Washington will send Anibal Sanchez (11-8, 3.85 ERA) to the mound for the Nationals in Game 1.

The Cardinals will have Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA) pitch the NLCS opener in St. Louis. In Game 2, “old man” Max Scherzer pitches against Cards favorite, Adam Wainwright. Game 3 will be a highly anticipated battle of aces in DC between Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg and Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals.

According to William Hill, the Washington Nationals are 4/1 odds to win the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals are 5/1 odds to win the World Series.

Swamp Hex

Everyone expected the Los Angeles Dodgers would be the team to beat in the National League this year. The Dodgers won a franchise record 106 games, and were on a mission to return to their third-straight World Series. Aside from the Houston Astros, the Dodgers were the other top team on the World Series futures board in Las Vegas.

Most prognosticators expected the two best teams in the NL (and the betting favorites), the Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers, would meet in the NLCS, and suit up for action in Dodger Stadium tonight. No one anticipated the Nationals and the Cardinals would have both made it this far. One team seemed jinxed, and the other survived a cannibalistic division race.

Once a franchise falls under a losing hex, it’s difficult to break out of it. Just ask the Minnesota Twins about October losing streaks. Up until the other night, the Nationals were one of those teams born under a bad sign. The Nats were jinxed ever since the team relocated from Montreal, and rebranded the Expos to the Nationals.

Washington fielded good teams since moving from Montreal, but they struggled to get over the hump in the playoffs by never advancing past their opening round. Even their ace, Max Scherzer, who seemed unhittable during the regular season, struggled at times in October. Maybe supernatural forces were at work?

The Nationals must’ve consulted with a Haitian witch doctor because the Nats finally got over the hump this year, winning the NL wild card. Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam, and the Nationals pulled off an upset victory in extra innings over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS.

DC Aces

The Nationals look good on paper, with a strong lineup and three amazing starters. The bookies gave the Nationals the edge to win the NLCS at -120, even though the Cardinals have home-field advantage in the seven-game NLCS series. The Nationals also have better World Series odds (4/1 vs. 5/1) than the Cardinals.

The Nationals tried to re-sign Bryce Harper, but he wanted out of the swamp. The Phillies overpaid for Harper’s services, and they bubbled the NL wild card. Now, the Nats are only four games away from a World Series berth… without Harper in the lineup.

The Nationals send out the DC-version of Murderer’s Row with Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto. Eaton struggled in the NLDS with a .188 average and only three hits. However, Rendon is knocking the snot out of the ball with a .418 batting average in the ALDS. Soto hit 34 home runs this season, and he jacked two already in October, including a big dinger in the NL wild card.

The Nationals matched up well against the Dodgers in a short series. If they had to play seven games, the Nats wouldn’t have kept up with the Dodgers’ depth. Once you get past Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, it’s slim pickings. And don’t even mention the lackluster bullpen to fans, because it’s enough to cause them to puke on the spot.

The Nationals have a better rotation than the Cardinals in the NLCS. However, the Nats had one of the worst bullpens in baseball with a 5.68 ERA. This runaway luggage cart meme sums up the Nats bullpen the best.

Unless Dave Martinez expects his three aces to start and relieve every game, someone aside from Danny Hudson and Sean Doolittle will have to step up. Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin account for more than 66 percent of all innings in the NLDS.

Overall, the bookies favor Washington as the consensus winner of the NLCS. The Nationals are currently 4/1 odds to win the World Series at various books around Las Vegas.

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