ï»¿A look at the best-of-five National League Division Series between the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals:
Schedule: (All times PDT) Game 1, Friday, at Washington (12:07 p.m.); Game 2, Saturday, at Washington (2:37 p.m.); Game 3, Monday, Oct. 6, at San Francisco (TBD); x-Game 4, Tuesday, Oct. 7, at San Francisco (TBD); x-Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 9, at Washington (TBD). (All games on FS1 or MLBN).
Season Series: Nationals won 5-2.
Giants: CF Gregor Blanco (.260, 5 HRs, 38 RBIs), 2B Joe Panik (.305, 1, 18), C Buster Posey (.311, 22, 89), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16, 73), RF Hunter Pence (.277, 20, 74), 1B Brandon Belt (.243, 12, 27), LF Travis Ishikawa (.252, 3, 18 with Pirates and Giants) or Michael Morse (.279, 16, 61), SS Brandon Crawford (.246, 10, 69).
Nationals: CF Denard Span (.302, 5, 37, 31 SBs, 39 2Bs, tied for NL lead with 184 hits), 3B Anthony Rendon (.287, 21, 83, 39 2Bs, NL-high 111 runs), RF Jayson Werth (.292, 16, 82), 1B Adam LaRoche (.259, 26, 92), SS Ian Desmond (.255, 24, 91), LF Bryce Harper (.273, 13, 32), C Wilson Ramos (.267, 11, 47), 2B Asdrubal Cabrera (.241, 14, 61 with Indians and Nationals).
Giants: RH Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA with San Francisco and Boston), RH Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57), LH Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98, 219 Ks), RH Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00).
Nationals: RH Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14, 215 IP, tied for NL lead with 242 Ks), RH Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66, 199 2-3 IP), RH Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41), LH Gio Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57).
Giants: RH Santiago Casilla (3-3, 1.70, 19/23 saves), RH Sergio Romo (6-4, 3.72, 23/28 saves), LH Jeremy Affeldt (4-2, 2.28), LH Javier Lopez (1-1, 3.11), RH Jean Machi (7-1, 2.58, 2 saves), RH Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74, 1 save), RH Yusmeiro Petit (5-5, 3.69).
Nationals: RH Drew Storen (2-1, 1.12, 11/14 saves), RH Tyler Clippard (7-4, 2.18, 1 save, 82 Ks, 70 1-3 IP), LH Matt Thornton (1-3, 1.75, 0/4 saves with Yankees and Nationals), RH Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.85, 31 starts), RH Craig Stammen (4-5, 3.84), RH Aaron Barrett (3-0, 2.66), LH Ross Detwiler (2-3, 4.00, 1 save), LH Jerry Blevins (2-3, 4.87, held lefties to .160 batting average), RH Rafael Soriano (4-1, 3.19, 32/39 saves; 0.97, 22/24 saves before All-Star break).
These franchises have never met in the postseason, although the New York Giants did play the old Washington Senators in the 1924 and '33 World Series, with the Giants losing the first and winning the second. … The Nationals won five of the seven meetings this season, taking three of four in San Francisco in June and two of three at home in August. … In the finale of the season series, Strasburg left in the fourth after allowing five earned runs, but Washington won 14-6, erasing a 6-3 deficit with 14 hits off Giants relievers. … While the Nationals finished strong, the Giants went only 41-40 in the second half, 13-12 in September. … Giants manager Bruce Bochy has won two World Series titles; Washington rookie skipper Matt Williams, a four-time All-Star while playing for San Francisco from 1987-96, has never managed in the playoffs. … Hudson has a long history of success against Washington, going 18-5 with a 2.35 ERA over his career, and only one current Nationals player has terrific numbers against him: Werth (.386, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). … Sandoval is batting .413 vs. Washington the past three seasons. … LaRoche is 0 for 9 with eight Ks and one walk in his career against Lopez. … Desmond is 10 for 15 with two HRs off Lincecum. … Strasburg, who grew up in San Diego and went to San Diego State, is set to make his Game 1 start against the former Padres pitcher he admired most, Peavy.
Giants: After winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the Giants (88-74) are hoping to keep up their every-other-year pattern. San Francisco missed the playoffs after each of those championships but is back this season as the second NL wild-card team. … The Giants advanced to the NL Division Series by beating Pittsburgh 8-0 behind a four-hitter from Bumgarner and a grand slam by Crawford. … After relying on stellar pitching during those two title runs, the Giants are more balanced this year, finishing fifth in the NL in runs and seventh in ERA. … The Giants went 65-18 when scoring first and 22-56 when allowing the first run. … Workhorse RHP Matt Cain made just 15 starts because of a season-ending elbow injury, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum was removed from the rotation. … Bumgarner is 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA in eight postseason appearances. He has thrown 16 straight scoreless innings, dating to Game 2 of the 2012 World Series vs. Detroit. … Bumgarner is also a threat at the plate, batting .258 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .470 slugging percentage this season. The last pitcher to have more RBIs in a season was Mike Hampton with 16 in 2001 for Colorado. … The Giants could bring Peavy back on short rest in Game 4, but Vogelsong has pitched well at home despite his 3-7 record there. He had a 3.06 ERA in 16 home starts. … Panik is batting .345 since Aug. 4 and provided a big spark with his midseason call-up. … Posey batted .393 in September but was slowed during the final week of the season with a bad back. … The Giants are without sparkplug and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, who is out for the season with a back injury. … Morse has just two ABs since Aug. 31 because of a strained oblique but could be ready for this series.
Nationals: After playing so-so for half a season, Washington wound up running away with the NL East title, finishing in first by 17 games. … The Nationals (96-66) finished with the NL's top record for the second time in three years. … Washington was 21-9 over its last 30 games, the best mark in the majors. … The pitching staff is the backbone of the team; Washington's 3.03 ERA led the majors, and its 3.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best since at least 1900. … Over their final three starts apiece, the four pitchers expected to form the playoff rotation went 11-1 with a 1.07 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 11 walks. That includes 20 scoreless innings by Strasburg, Zimmermann's no-hitter in the season finale and Fister's three-hit shutout in his last outing. … The lineup is deep, if devoid of a superstar slugger. No one had 30 homers; no one had 100 RBIs (LaRoche led in both categories). But there were four hitters with more than 80 RBIs each. … Williams is a first-time manager. As a player, he won the 2001 World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose manager, Bob Brenly, is the only rookie skipper in the last 50 years to guide a team to a championship. … The Nationals have played in one previous playoff series since moving from Montreal to Washington in 2005, losing to St. Louis in an NL Division Series two years ago.
â€” Playoff tested. The Giants have won eight straight postseason games dating to their 2012 World Series run and have been at their best in October under Bochy. They have won seven consecutive elimination games in the postseason after beating Pittsburgh and don't get overwhelmed by the pressure.
â€” Potent Panda. Sandoval has keyed San Francisco's postseason success during the past two trips. He has an 11-game postseason hitting streak and is batting .421 with six homers and 13 RBIs in his last 14 postseason games. That includes his three-homer game in the 2012 World Series opener against Detroit.
â€” Timmy Time. Lincecum is no longer the dominant freak who won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008-09 and was a dominant starter in the 2010 World Series run. But he played an integral role out of the bullpen two years ago with a 2.55 ERA in 17 2-3 innings. He struck out eight of the 16 batters he faced in the World Series, allowing no hits and no runs in 4 2-3 innings.
â€” Strasburg's Debut. Finally, the moment baseball fans all over â€” not to mention Strasburg himself â€” have been waiting for: The No. 1 pick in the 2009 amateur draft, the guy with the electric stuff, the 6-foot-4 right-hander who struck out 14 in his first major league start, will show what he can do in the postseason spotlight. The Nationals shut down Strasburg in September 2012 to protect his surgically repaired pitching elbow, a decision hotly debated as the club exited quickly from the playoffs.
â€” Storen's Second Chance. A night after Werth's walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth forced a Game 5 in the 2012 NLDS against the Cardinals, the Nationals went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Leading 6-0 early, then 7-5 with two outs in the ninth, Washington let the series slip away as Storen failed on five chances to record the final strike, walked two batters, then allowed a pair of two-run singles in what became a 9-7 loss. Storen then lost the closer's job and spent time in the minors in 2013, but he's back to being Washington's go-to guy in the ninth.
â€” Zimmerman's Role. In 2005, Ryan Zimmerman was the first player ever drafted by the Nationals. He became an NL All-Star, earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and eventually signed a $100 million contract. But a broken right thumb, then a strained right hamstring, limited him to 61 games in 2014, and he only returned from the leg injury on Sept. 20. Without enough time to get his swing all the way back, and with Rendon entrenched at Zimmerman's former position, third base, and Harper and LaRoche at the other spots he can play, it's possible the “face of the franchise” will mainly be limited to pinch hitting.