The Milwaukee Brewers face off against the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, the first contest of the 2019 Major League Baseball Postseason. The winner of the one-game showdown between the two clubs will advance to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series starting Thursday.
The Brewers have been in this situation before, winning a one-game playoff with the Chicago Cubs last year to take the National League Central crown. Milwaukee advanced all the way to the National League Championship Series before falling to the Dodgers in seven games. Washington hasn’t been to the postseason since 2017, the second straight season they lost in five games in the division series.
The moneyline for this contest has the Milwaukee Brewers +165 and the Washington Nationals -180. The over/under has been set at 7.5.
The Brewers got hot at the end of the season last year and pulled out the NL Central crown. They did the same thing this year, though they came up short of the division title, settling for a Wild Card berth. The question now is whether or not they can keep it going in the postseason, especially after a three-game sweep at the hands of Colorado over the weekend which cost them a division title.
Brandon Woodruff will take the mound for this game for the Brewers. The right-hander went 11-3 this season in 22 starts, putting together a 3.62 ERA and striking out 143. The 26-year-old was 1-1 in the postseason last year, making one start among his four appearances and striking out 20 in his 12 1/3 innings of work. He didn’t get a decision in his last three appearances, though, and has only two starts since returning from the injured list in mid-September, going two innings in each. Manager Craig Counsell will certainly be watching how Woodruff is doing and not hesitate to go to the bullpen if he starts to struggle.
Injuries — or specifically one injury — were supposed to sidetrack the Brewers’ playoff hopes, with MVP candidate Christian Yelich going down with a fractured kneecap in early September. Milwaukee made it to the postseason without its star, but now injuries could be a problem in their first playoff game. Lorenzo Cain is considered day to day with a sprained left ankle suffered sliding into home on Saturday night, while Ryan Braun suffered a left calf strain on Friday night, though both will likely play in this one.
Ace On The Mound
Washington comes into this contest red-hot, having won eight straight to earn home-field advantage for this game. Max Scherzer will make his 14th career playoff start, though he’s gone 0-1 in each of his last three playoff seasons with the Nationals and Tigers. In 2019, the 35-year-old right-hander has gone 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA, striking out 243 batters to rank third in the National League. Much like the Brewers, the Nationals will have all hands on deck for this one in an effort to advance, so if Scherzer struggles, don’t be surprised to see Stephen Strasburg come in as a reliever.
The offense has been rolling during the team’s current winning streak, averaging 6.7 runs, including 26 in a three-game sweep of Cleveland over the weekend. Anthony Rendon has been the main man for the Nationals for much of the season, and he’s certainly anxious to make up for his 6-for-37 batting in Washington’s last two playoff appearances. Rendon ranked in the top three in the National League in batting average (.319), runs (117), slugging percentage (.598) and RBI (126), leading the league in the last category.
Nationals Advance With Win
Milwaukee has been a nice story, but as this weekend against Colorado showed, they aren’t the same team they were with Yelich. Washington has been playing some of the best baseball in the league for the last few months and is determined to make some postseason noise. Throw in the experience they have on the mound and in the pen, and the Nationals are the obvious choice to win this game. I’m taking Washington -180 to advance to the National League Division Series.