The Washington Nationals . Thanks to another Stephen Strasburg masterpiece, the Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in NLCS Game 3 on Monday night (WAS 8, STL 1) to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Here are seven things to know about Washington's Game 3 win.
1. Strasburg was marvelous again
Strasburg is cementing himself as one of the all-time great postseason pitchers. After twirling seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3 on Monday, Strasburg now owns a career 1.10 ERA in 41 postseason innings. That includes a 1.64 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason.
The 12 strikeouts came on four curveballs and eight changeups. Strasburg was able to throw the curveball for called strikes all night, and hitters were chasing the changeup down below the zone. In those 41 career postseason innings Strasburg has struck out 57 and walked only five. He is one of five pitches with multiple 12-strikeout games in October:
- Gerrit Cole
- Bob Gibson
- Jim Palmer
- Tom Seaver
- Stephen Strasburg
Three Hall of Famers and two of the best pitchers in the game today. Not a bad list. Among pitchers with at least 20 innings in a single postseason, Strasburg's 1.64 ERA this year is 22nd lowest since the wild-card was introduced in 1995, and the 16th lowest among pitchers to appear in at least four games. He has been brilliant.
2. Kendrick continues to rake
Howie Kendrick? More like Wowie Kendrick! OK, that was bad, but Kendrick continues to amaze this October. He of course had that clutch go-ahead grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, and in NLCS Game 3 on Monday, he drove in three runs, including two with a two-out double against Jack Flaherty:
Kendrick had three hits -- all doubles -- in Game 3, which ties the record for two-baggers in an LCS game. He's also driven in nine runs in nine games, setting a new Expos/Nationals franchise record for a single postseason. Kendrick has more multi-hit games (three) than no-hit games (two) this October.
At this point Kendrick is as good a bet as anyone to take home NLCS MVP honors. He's been incredible.
3. Flaherty had his worst start since July
In his final 16 starts of the regular season, Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty pitched to a 0.93 ERA and held hitters to a .139/.203/.217 batting line. That's 11 earned runs in 106 1/3 innings. Incredible. In Game 3 on Monday, the Nationals tagged Flaherty for four runs in the third inning alone.
Marcell Ozuna contributed greatly to that four-run third inning (more on that in a moment), but Flaherty also allowed one walk and three legitimate hits in the frame. He faced eight batters in the inning and four saw at least five pitches. There were a lot of long at-bats and the finish pitch just wasn't there.
The four runs allowed in Game 3 are Flaherty's most since he allowed four runs in four innings against the Mariners on July 2. Including postseason, Game 3 was only the ninth time Flaherty allowed at least four runs in 36 starts this year.
4. Ozuna made two costly mistakes
It's hard to go 2 for 4 with a double and have a bad game, but Ozuna managed to do it in Game 3. First he was caught wondering too far from second base following his second inning leadoff double, running the offense-starved Cardinals out of a potential rally.
Then, in that four-run third inning, Ozuna was unable to catch Anthony Rendon's soft fly ball to left field. He slid and the ball clanked off his glove. The speedy Adam Eaton scored all the way from first with two outs to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
Based on exit velocity and launch angle and things like that, Statcast says a batted ball like Rendon's would be expected to fall in for a hit only 18 percent of the time. Ozuna turned it into 100 percent with ... whatever that was.
The misplay allowed a run to score and it also extended the inning. If Ozuna catches that ball, Flaherty escapes the third down 1-0 and with his pitch count at a manageable 50. Instead, three more runs eventually crossed the plate, and Flaherty's pitch count climbed to 64. Consider the win probability difference:
- Cardinals actual win probability after third inning: 13.2 percent
- Cardinals win probability after third if Ozuna makes catch: 34.5 percent
That's an enormous swing. Even with St. Louis struggling offensively in the NLCS, trailing 1-0 after three innings is nothing. A 4-0 deficit is much more daunting. Between the missed catch and baserunning mistake, Ozuna had a rough Game 3.
5. The Cardinals got an early hit!
For the first time all series, the Cardinals recorded a hit before the seventh inning in Game 3. Ozuna broke up the no-hit bid with a leadoff double in the second inning. He promptly made an out on the bases. Here's when the Cardinals picked up their first hit in each game in the NLCS:
- Game 1: 27th batter
- Game 2: 21st batter
- Game 3: 4th batter
Incredibly, Cardinals left-handed hitters are 0 for 37 with three walks in the NLCS. Their righties aren't much better (11 for 68, or .162), but geez. Three games into a postseason series and no hits from the portside? That's especially problematic when switch-hitter Dexter Fowler and lefty Kolten Wong are batting 1-2 in the lineup.
Through three games the Cardinals as a team are 11 for 105 (.105) with two extra-base hits (both doubles) in the NLCS. They've scored two (2) runs in the three games, both unearned thanks to errors by Nationals outfielders.
6. The Nationals are in control of the series
Not only do the Nationals have a commanding 3-0 series lead, they're also set to start Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer, and Strasburg in three of their next four games. (Anibal Sanchez, who flirted with a no-hitter in NLCS Game 1, will start the other game.) Thirty-seven teams in history have taken a 3-0 series lead and 36 of the 37 have gone on to win the series. The one exception is the 2004 Red Sox and their historic comeback.
Twenty-nine of those 37 series have ended in a sweep, or 78 percent. There is still work to be done, but the Nationals are sitting pretty right now.
7. Game 4 is up next
Tuesday night the Nationals will try to finish the sweep and punch their ticket to the World Series. Corbin, this past winter's prized free agent signing, will be on the mound for Washington. He's made three relief appearances since his Game 1 start in the NLDS. Dakota Hudson will be tasked with saving the season for the Cardinals. Game 4 will begin at 8:05 p.m. ET -- stream via fuboTV (Try for free).