Game 1 of this three-game regular season series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals belonged to the home team. The Nationals, behind their best starting pitcher so far this season, Gio Gonzalez, beat the defending NLCS champion Cardinals, and starter Michael Wacha, by a score of 3-1. Gonzalez, who went seven innings and only gave up four hits and one earned run while striking out seven and only walking one, now goes to 3-1 on the season while Wacha dropped his first of the season even though he pitched well enough to win. Wacha also went seven innings and only gave up five hits, while striking out seven and walking none, but the killer for him was the three earned runs.
Now I know it is early, really early to be exact, but I cannot help but think that these two teams have the best chance to meet in this year’s NLCS. The Cardinals are the Cardinals, or the New York Yankees of the NL. They know how to win with anyone on their roster and anyone as their manager. They are just bred to win. Last year’s NLCS champion Cardinals, I think, will return there this season.
As for the Nationals, they had a really disappointing season, after being projected to win the NL East, and ended up missing the playoffs all together. However, the Nationals started to turn things around at the end of last year and made a mini-run at the last Wild Card spot before falling short in the end. This season, with some fresh blood in the dugout, a new manager in Matt Williams and with the emergence of Anthony Rendon, not to mention All-Star Bryce Harper, the Nationals are poised to fulfill last year’s failed prophecy and win the division this season.
If this series does come to fruition in October, the Nationals will need more strong performances from Gonzalez, among others, like this one because the Cardinals will definitely have the mental edge with their winning experience and legacy while the Nationals are still looking to cement their own.