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2016 National League Division Series: Cubs Under Pressure

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[lead align=”default”]The march begins in earnest for the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 National League Division Series. Let’s not forget, however, that three other teams want the pennant as well.[/lead]

The Cubs, Giants, Nationals, and Dodgers are the National League’s final four, and with those series starting today, we look at the matchups and what each team must do to win.

There is perhaps no team on it with the pressure on it than the Chicago Cubs have, for obvious reasons. More on that in a moment.

2016 National League Division Series: Los Angeles vs. Washington

Pitching on top of pitching in this bi-coastal series. With a rotation led by Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, the Nationals have the second-best staff ERA in the National League. The Dodgers were only fifth in their league, but Clayton Kershaw, enough said. Kenley Jansen coming out of the bullpen is no slouch, either.

Don’t overlook the Nationals hitters. Washington has Daniel Murphy leading its charge with his obscene .347 batting average. Bryce Harper may be the name you expected to see there, and his on-base percentage is good, but his .243 batting average? Not so much, and in his last ten games, he’s 9-for-35 (.257) with no homers and a .679 OPS. That’s okay, but not great, and not superstar numbers. Harper performing more like the 2015 edition could be critical to the Nats’ chances.

Still, the Nationals managed a middle-of-the-pack team batting average and hit more homers than most. The Dodgers must find a way to keep the Nats inside the ballpark, while figuring out just how the hell to hit the ball out themselves. The Los Angeles lineup is not overwhelming, and they’re not a great power-hitting team. They have won in large part due to their pitching, and if they’re getting out of the NLDS, the pitching has to hold together. Washington is a little more balanced and pose a tough test for the Dodgers.

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