The Washington Nationals were unsure what to expect from reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer going into the playoffs, but they’ll need their ace to be close to his best when he gets the ball Monday for Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs. The series shifts back to Wrigley Field after the teams split the first two games in Washington.
The Cubs’ pitching staff was dominant for the first 16 innings of the series, shutting out the Nationals in the opener and taking a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning of Game 2 before Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman went deep in a five-run frame that lifted Washington to a 6-3 win. “We’ve got to win two more games,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters. “Doesn’t matter how we do it. Doesn’t matter the scenario. It starts Monday. With this group, with this experience, nothing’s really going to faze us. We’ve given up way bigger home runs than that before.” Chicago hopes left-hander Jose Quintana can put the Nationals back on their heels as he makes his postseason debut. Scherzer left his last start of the regular season on Sept. 30 with a hamstring injury that left his status for the division series up in the air, but he will aim for his first postseason win since the 2013 AL Division Series.
TV: 4:08 p.m. ET, TBS
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51 ERA) vs. Cubs LH Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.15)
Scherzer is 0-3 in his last five postseason starts, but he posted a 3.75 ERA in two outings in last year’s NLDS against the Dodgers. The 33-year-old was pitching well before his injury, going 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his last three regular-season starts. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs, including a win this season in which he allowed one run and two hits over six frames.
Quintana has gone 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts since the Cubs acquired him from the cross-town White Sox. The Cubs have won the 28-year-old’s last six starts, and he has posted a 2.82 ERA over that span. Quintana has never faced the Nationals.
1. Cubs 3B Kris Bryant, who is 3-for-8 with a double and an RBI in the series, is 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts versus Scherzer.
2. Zimmerman was 9-for-79 with 23 strikeouts against the Cubs over the past three seasons and had not homered against them since 2013 before his go-ahead blast in Game 2.
3. Quintana has not walked a left-handed batter since July 23, facing 58 lefties during that stretch.
PREDICTION: Cubs 2, Nationals 1