Cubs lefty Jon Lester, a veteran of three World Series, normally would loom as a Game 1 playoff starter. Their collection of 20-something stars is a sight, and their for-the-moment ace starter Kyle Hendricks, who wound up beating out perennial October hero Jon Lester and the others for the Game No. 1 assignment, outpitched Strasburg, who had waited a lifetime for this moment. It's become nearly a tradition for the manager and his 27-year old budding ace, from the regular season to his controversial pull in the fifth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.
It wasn't the revelation that most people were curious to hear on Thursday morning - especially Cubs fans.
Strasburg's numbers are a shade better overall on the road, but he still has a 2.75 ERA while pitching from his home mound.
The Nats are +300 to win the pennant and the Cubs +350. They saw Stephen Strasburg at his very best, looking like the guy who was trying to make up for past playoffs lost and taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning.
Hendricks looked far less imposing but proved more effective, holding the Nationals to two hits in seven shutout innings for the Cubs, who began their title defense by stoking the insecurities of a franchise that has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. And it cost them in Game 1. But the Nationals didn't get a hit after the second inning, a streak of 25 batters, and were left to wonder about sixth-inning mistakes from Rendon's error to Bryce Harper's high relay throw. The hope is Scherzer will be ready by Game 3 on Monday in Chicago.
"It's a cool thing for [Hendricks]".
"I'm really, really happy for (Hendricks)". The Boys in Blue are going back-to-back once again!
Strasburg, meanwhile, has been just about as dominant in 2017, going 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 204 strikeouts and particularly terrific down the stretch, with a 5-1 record and 0.84 ERA in his last eight starts. After a rough end to the regular season, he'll look to rebound in a must-win Game 2 for Washington. During his last four regular season starts, Gio Gonzalez amassed a groan-inducing 6.75 ERA.
Both the Nationals and Cubs made important moves around the July 31 trade deadline, with Washington landing a few relievers to improve what had been a leaky bullpen, and the Cubs trading for White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana.
"Anyone on this staff could make this start", Hendricks said.
Outfielder Jayson Werth, 38, is now in his seventh year with the Nationals and is in the postseason for the ninth time in his career. Arrieta has been battling a sore right hamstring so Maddon pushed him down the rotation to give him more time to heal. Jake Arrieta was ruled out of the Game 1 conversation because of his hamstring injury back in September.
Less than a half-hour before the game, the Nationals announced that assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation. The whole Nationals season - perhaps a whole era - could depend on it. Clayton Kershaw gave up five hits and four runs over six-and-a-third innings to come away with the win.
ROYALS: Left-hander Danny Duffy underwent surgery to remove loose debris in his pitching elbow and is expected to resume his normal offseason training in about six weeks.
The teams' NLDS rosters were released Friday morning, and John Lackey made Chicago's 25-man list.
The series opener was a pitcher's duel early on.
Yesterday's matchup of Nationals' pitcher Stephen Strasburg versus Chicago's Kyle Hendricks showcased exactly how hard the rest of this series might be for Washington.