2014 Head to Head Record: (0 – 0)
2013 Head to Head Record: Cardinals 6 – 0
In the short history of the Washington Nationals there are just a handful of teams that make Nats fans cringe. Arguably, chief among them are the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals one pure moment of ecstasy, and its one true moment of agony thus far are linked inextricably to the redbirds and one volatile 24 hour period in the Nation’s capital. If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Game 4, Game 5. Now you’re all caught up.
Making matters worse, the 2013 Nationals got absolutely pummeled by the Cardinals who were cruising along to being NLCS winners. Last year offered revenge for neither the Nationals nor their fans. As such, for many Nats fans, this series opens with plenty of bitter in our mouths.
Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals are probably the only team as deep and complete as the Washington Nationals. Even the vaunted (and pricey) Los Angeles Dodgers can’t compete for organizational depth with the St. Louis Cardinals who seem to always have someone on the field, the bench, or in the minors ready to become a great ball player. Nats fans may begrudge the Cards plenty, but they are a great team and a great organization (Even if the moniker of “Best Fans” may still be a bit far fetched).
How the Nats Win: Unlike the Mets (who have a bad bullpen), or the Marlins (who have a pretty spotty lineup) or even the Braves (who suffer from some starting pitching depth) the Cardinals have it all. They can hit, they can run, they can throw with the best of them. These games are going to likely come down to who makes mistakes first, and who turns those mistakes into runs. Both teams are capable of putting another team away with a lead. Both teams are capable of coming back if the other leaves the door open. The Nats may benefit from having last-ups, and any fan should be happy with a 2-2 split with the Cardinals.
Three Cardinals to Watch For: Yadier Molina is arguably the best catcher in baseball, a least according to his profile in Sports Illustrated. He is a catcher that can both excel at defense and hit, a rare commodity in the game today. Many credit the Cardianals success with young pitching to his excellent game calling and command skills. Micahel Wacha may have a name that invokes Fozzy Bear, but he’s anything but a cuddly character. Throwing out his final appearance in the 2013 World Series, Wacha joined the Cardinals at the end of May and filled in more than admirably throughout the season. Lastly, let’s all keep an eye on Mark Ellis, who I don’t expect to make much of an impact on the games…but he’s the guy the brought up to replace Pete F#$*(NG Kozma.