It’s never easy to look back and wonder, “What if?” Especially when the sting of defeat is still fresh in your mind. It’s always easier to look ahead and wonder, “What’s next?” than dredge up bad memories.
And we will start looking ahead. Tomorrow. Today, we’re going to take one final look back at a National League Division Series that defied most logic. The Nationals lost the series, three games to two, to the Cubs. But as you’ll see, the numbers pretty much entirely tilted in Washington’s favor.
This may not be an easy read for those who still can’t believe the Nationals aren’t in Los Angeles right now, preparing for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. But it’s worth it to take one final look at the numbers and try to figure out how in the world the Nats actually lost this series ...
* The Nationals outscored the Cubs 20-17 in the series. They won their two games by a combined eight runs. They lost their three games by a combined five runs (twice by one run).
* The Nationals’ offensive numbers for the series were not good. They hit a paltry .186 with a .302 on-base percentage and .335 slugging percentage. Not good. And yet it was still better than the Cubs’ slash line of .180/.285/.280.
* Nationals pitchers combined for a 2.66 ERA in the series, allowing only 49 batters to reach base in 44 innings and striking out 52. Cubs pitchers combined for a 3.68 ERA in the series, allowing 57 batters to reach base in 44 innings, striking out 41.
* The Nationals out-homered the Cubs 6-2. Chicago out-doubled Washington 9-6. Neither team hit a triple.
* What about timely hitting? Well, neither team was particularly good in that department, either. But the Nationals actually were better. They hit .222 (6-for-27) with runners in scoring position, while the Cubs hit .212 (7-for-33). In the decisive Game 5, the Nats were 3-for-10 while the Cubs were just 1-for-11.
* What about defense? The Nationals were charged with five errors in the series, while the Cubs were charged with seven. It’s worth noting, however, that Chicago took better advantage of those mistakes, scoring four unearned runs in the series to the Nationals’ two.
* Who did the contributing for each team? The Nats were led by Michael A. Taylor (5-for-15, two homers, eight RBIs, three walks, four strikeouts). Taylor reached base a total of eight times, as did Anthony Rendon. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth each reached base seven times. Matt Wieters reached six times. Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman each reached five times (Turner’s five all came in the final two games of the series).
For the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo (4-for-20, one homer, one double, six RBIs) led the way. Willson Contreras reached base nine times, most of anybody in the series. Jon Jay reached six times (three via hit by pitch), as did Addison Russell. Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist each reached five times. Jason Heyward reached four times. Albert Almora Jr. reached three times. Kyle Schwarber reached twice. And Javier Báez reached only one (a walk), going 0-for-14 with five strikeouts in the series.
* How about pitcher usage? Stephen Strasburg faced a total of 51 batters in the series, most of any pitcher on either team. Kyle Hendricks (49) was next, followed by Gio Gonzalez (35), Jon Lester (34) and Max Scherzer (33).
Among the Nationals’ regular relievers, Ryan Madson had by far the most work, facing 18 batters (retiring 12). Brandon Kintzler retired eight of the 12 batters he faced. Matt Albers retired seven of nine, Sean Doolittle retired eight of nine, Sammy Solís retired three of seven and Oliver Pérez retired one of two. Neither Tanner Roark nor Enny Romero appeared in the series out of the Nationals bullpen.
On the Cubs side, closer Wade Davis faced 18 batters, retiring 11 of them. Carl Edwards Jr. faced 13, retiring seven. Pedro Strop retired 10 of 13, Mike Montgomery retired three of nine, Brian Duensing retired five of six and Justin Wilson retired each of the two batters faced. John Lackey never appeared.
* OK, here’s the last stat for you. And just to provide fair warning, it’s going to be tough to see. But it needs to be said, so here you go: Over their last three postseason series, the Nationals have outscored the opposition by a combined score of 53-45. Yes, they outscored the Giants (2014), Dodgers (2016) and Cubs (2017) in aggregate. They outscored Los Angeles last season 24-19. They were deadlocked with San Francisco at 9-9.
Total record in all of those games: 5-9. Record in those series: 0-3.
Have a great weekend, everybody!