Fantasy Preview: Nationals vs Pirates 30th Sep 2017

Over the last weekend of the 2017 Major League Baseball regular simple, the two-part formula for the Washington Nationals is very straightforward: stay sharp and stay healthy, as the team heads into the postseason.

Washington will face the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series. In case anyone forgot, the Cubs are the defending World Series champion, and even though they struggled through the first half of the season, they just broke the 90-win mark en route to their second-straight National League Central title.

Even though pitcher Max Scherzer has been the ace for the Nationals for nearly all of this season, the way the season ends, and the way the player has been performing, it looks like Stephen Strasburg will get the nod for Game 1 of the NLDS.

In his final regular-season outing Friday, Strasburg dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving up only two hits over 7⅔ shutout innings in Washington’s 6-1 victory. The performance, in which Strasburg retired the first 14 batters he faced and looked as dominant as he has all year, was merely the latest in a string of stellar starts for the Nats’ right-hander. Since returning from the disabled list Aug. 19, the 29-year-old has given up no earned runs in six of eight starts and has fanned 63 batters against only 10 walks. His 0.86 ERA since the All-Star break is the second-lowest ever by a pitcher in the second half of a season (minimum of 10 starts).

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Of course, having Scherzer behind Strasburg is one heck of an option. The reigning Cy Young award-winner will make one more start before the season is over, scheduled for Saturday, September 30th against the Pittsburgh Pirates @ Nationals. In his last start, Scherzer played in vintage form, throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes while reaching double-digit punchouts for the first time in five outings. That was an encouraging start, considering he stumbled a bit in two starts at the start of September. But he has won each of his last two, allowing just two runs with a 17:2 K:BB over 17 innings in that span.

Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon will have the unenviable task of dueling against Scherzer on Saturday evening. The 25-year old allowed a single run on four hits and a walk while striking out six batters through five innings to take the win against St. Louis on last Sunday (9/24). He’s now allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his past five starts. There have been a number of peaks and valleys throughout the season for the 25-year-old righty, but it’s encouraging to see him finishing the year strong.

In the batting lineup, centerfielder Andrew McCutchen will wrap up a great if not topsy-turvy season in 2017. A popular name in trade discussions last offseason, McCutchen will likely appear in the rumor mill again this winter if the Pirates decide to pursue a rebuild. Given the stellar .278/.362/.487 batting line he’s submitted this season, the 30-year-old would surely fetch a more significant haul in any trade than he would have at this point a year ago.

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