The St. Louis Cardinals were just over .500 on the road during the 2019 regular season in Major League Baseball, but if they hope to play another home game this season, they’ll need to play even better for the next two games. The Cardinals are down 2-0 in the National League Championship Series to the Washington Nationals, with Game 3 being played at Nationals Park on Monday.
St. Louis hasn’t looked anything like the team they were in their last game on the road, a 13-1 shellacking of Atlanta in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The Cardinals had more hits in that inning (five) than they had in the first two games of this series combined (four), which is why they trail in the series. A lot of that has to do with the pitching of the Nationals, with Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer each going at least seven innings and allowing no runs.
The moneyline for Game 3 has the St. Louis Cardinals +117 and the Washington Nationals -127. The over/under for the game has been set at 7.
The deficit is already immense for the Cardinals in this series, considering the next three games — if three are necessary — will be played in Washington. But if St. Louis was to lose Game 3, with its pitching ace, Jack Flaherty, on the mound, all hope would likely be lost. Flaherty came up big in his last must-win game — Game 5 against Atlanta — though he was staked to a 10-0 lead before he even took the mound. Still, he went six innings and allowed only four hits and one run to a team that was desperate for any offense. He took the loss in Game 2 of that series, going seven innings and allowed eight hits and three earned runs.
Flaherty could be great, but the Cardinals aren’t going to win if they don’t get any offense. St. Louis has scored just one run in the last 24 innings, so it must be due, right? Problem is, the Cardinals have been like this for much of the season, making their late-season run to the postseason thanks to the team’s pitching being outstanding. The likely candidates to break out and have big games in this one are Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, the team leaders offensively all season long. Goldschmidt is hitting .345 in the playoffs despite going 1-for-8 in this series, hitting two home runs and four doubles. Ozuna is batting .310 in the postseason but has yet to reach base in this series. He has two home runs, three doubles and five RBI in the playoffs.
Next Ace Up
Sanchez and Scherzer set the bar pretty high for Washington starting pitching in this series, but if anyone can reach or exceed it, it’s Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander has made three appearances in the postseason so far, putting together a 2-0 record with a 2.40 ERA. He was hit for two home runs and three earned runs in Game 5 against the Dodgers in the NLDS, so it’s not a given he’ll shut down the Cardinals like his predecessors did. He also took a no-decision in a September game against St. Louis in which he allowed three hits and two earned runs in a five-inning stint.
While all the talk has been about the Cardinals’ woes at the plate, Washington hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. The Nationals have a total of five runs in the two games of this series, though they have 17 hits to the Cardinals’ four. Juan Soto has struggled at the plate, going 1-for-9 with five strikeouts in the two games. He’ll certainly be pressing to make an impact in this one, especially in front of the home crowd. Adam Eaton had the big hit of Game 2, driving in two with a double in the eighth inning, which ended up being the game-winning hit.
Cardinals Get On The Board
As up and down as the Cardinals offense has been this season, it has come through when it needed to or they wouldn’t be at this point of the postseason. Strasburg won’t make it easy, but it’s hard to picture St. Louis getting shut down for a third straight game. Flaherty comes up with a big effort, and the Cardinals scratch out enough hits to earn a close victory. I’m taking St. Louis +117 to take Game 3.