It’s a quiet morning, but the evening promises to be filled with fireworks. The Nats and Brewers will square off in D.C. after falling shy in their respective divisions but out-running the rest of the National League Wild Card field.
All Wild Card games come with the potential to be … well, wild. The format allows teams to compile rosters aimed at maximizing situational possibilities in one single game. And the win-or-go-home setting ensures that those rosters are unloaded — sometimes in creative fashion — without concern for ensuing contests. But this particular matchup is especially intriguing. In part by design and in part by happenstance, these teams have polar-opposite distributions of pitching talent.
The Nats are in good shape on paper, as they’ll trot out one of the game’s preeminent aces and competitors in Max Scherzer. An exceedingly unreliable bullpen lies in wait, but the club may attempt to forego it entirely by calling upon their other top-shelf starters — Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin — to clamp down on a Brewers lineup that managed to produce a late winning streak even after losing superstar Christian Yelich for the season. In theory, it’s a reasonably straightforward situation for Nats skipper Davey Martinez, but there could easily be some nervy moments as he decides whether and when to pull his horses and hand the ball off to Sean Doolittle and company.
The Brewers will also call upon their best starter in Brandon Woodruff. But he won’t be tasked with turning in a lengthy, shut-down performance. The young righty has only made a pair of two-inning appearances since returning from injury and surely won’t be extended too far beyond that point. His abbreviated start will kick off a cat-and-mouse bullpen game that is likely to feature multiple frames from relief ace Josh Hader and gobs of mixing and matching. It’ll be fascinating to see how manager Craig Counsell attempts to navigate a deep and balanced Nationals lineup. He’ll no doubt try to get as many outs as possible from his best arms while deploying situational relievers when necessary. The Milwaukee pitching situation could take any number of different paths and involve every hurler on the roster.
Which team has the edge in the NL Wild Card? (Poll link for app users.)