August 14, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (left) slides safe into second base ahead of Washington Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozzi during the first inning at AT&T Park - ©Beck Diefenbach-US PRESSWIRE

San Francisco Giants NLDS Potential Playoff Preview – Washington Nationals

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With the Cincinnati Reds loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last night, it would take a twist of fate for the Washington Nationals to lose their grip on the National League’s number one seed. With only two games remaining in the season and the Nationals and Reds both tied for the league’s best record, the Reds would need to win both of their remaining games while Washington dropped one of their final two, given Washington has won the season series and holds the tiebreaker.

So why is all of this important? Because the Giants will be playing the “loser” of that race, which for all purposes, appears to be the Reds – but the race isn’t done yet, so today we look at the potential scenario of the Nationals falling into the two seed and opening in San Francisco this weekend.

It’s a scenario many Giant fans cringe at – not to say the Reds would be an easy matchup by any stretch of the imagination, but the Giants have been absolutely destroyed by the Nationals this year – their lone win in six contests coming on the night where the G-men had their full arsenal in tow – Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Outside of that 6-1 victory, the Giants couldn’t muster much of anything on either side of the ball as the Nationals hit .333 against the Giants this year (the next closest opponent average was Colorado at .268) and roughed up the Giants’ arms to a eye gouging 7.49 ERA – the worst ERA the Giants had against any opponent.

The Giants didn’t lay down offensively though against the Nationals second ranked NL ERA, hitting .290 against them (second best in the league) and raising the Nationals ERA to 3.74, higher than their season average of 3.35. It’s difficult to find any positives out of the games as the final scores were all that mattered, but despite the Nats dominance in the win/loss column, the Giants did hold their own offensively and they’d be playing the Nationals a star short as the nasty Stephen Strasburg wont be pitching in the postseason.

Defensively, the Giants had some issues in their six games versus Washington this year, committing four errors which certainly didn’t help their case against the Nationals deep lineup, but much like Cincinnati – it was the longball that did the Giants in. The Nationals hit NINE homeruns in six games against the orange and black this year, good for a 25.0 HR/AB ratio – with only the Atlanta Braves besting that number. Oddly enough, despite the homerun totals, the Nationals were the lone National League team to hit more groundballs than flyballs against the Giants this year which could spell some of their offensive success to BABIP. Certainly not all of it, but, there’s some evidence that it increased their offensive output.

The lack of Stephen Strasburg for the Washington Nationals postseason roster is no small loss as the former San Diego State Aztec has all but shut down the Giants in his two career starts, but with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann heading their one-two punch, it’s a loss that they can sustain – assuming they pitch to their abilities.

As mentioned yesterday, neither the Reds nor Nationals are ideal matchups for the Giants but neither would be considered intimidating foes either. You have to run through the gantlet no matter who you play in the first round, so Reds or Nats – bring ‘em on.

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Tags: MLB Playoffs San Francisco Giants Washington Nationals

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