Nats set to face inconsistent Wainwright

907883.png

Nats set to face inconsistent Wainwright

With 2012 Cy Young candidate Kyle Lohse having pitched in the N.L. Wild Card game, the St. Louis Cardinals will trot out right-hander Adam Wainwright against the Nationals in Game 1 of the NLDS. Wainwright was once one of the games best young pitchers, but returned this season from Tommy John surgery and has yet to regain his form as an ace.

Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season due to the surgery and watched from the dugout as the Cardinals won the World Series without him. He had finished in the top three of National League Cy Young voting in the previous two seasons and their victory without him was a testament to their organizational depth.

Wainwright finished 2012 with a winning record and a sub-4.00 ERA despite struggling for much of the year. The Cardinals showed great patience in sticking with him after a terrible start to the season. Wainwright allowed at least four earned runs in four of his first seven starts and sat 2-4 with a 6.16 ERA on May 12.

The 31-year-old saved his season by going 7-3 with a 2.75 ERA through July and August. Still, over the course of this season he has shown he isnt the same dominant pitcher he once was.

The differences in the old Wainwright and the new one lie in pitch selection. Wainwright has adjusted to throw more off-speed pitches after a slight dip in velocity with a career low fastball usage at 41.8.

Wainwright uses a cut fastball now much more than he did in the past, throwing it 14.2 of the time. His primary breaking ball is the curveball, which he uses for almost a quarter of pitches.

In 2012, when Wainwright won he was dominant and when he lost it was at times ugly. In losses this season Wainwright allowed 56 earned runs in 69.0 innings, good for a 7.30 ERA. In games he won Wainwright held a 1.94 ERA with just 13 walks in 97.2 innings pitched.

Wainwrights two starts against the Nationals in many ways exemplified his season as one was great and one was quite the opposite.

On August 31 the Nationals handed Wainwright one of his worst starts of the season and it came in the middle of perhaps his hottest stretch. Wainwright had allowed two runs or less in eight consecutive starts before a complete disaster in Washington. The Nationals dropped six runs in 2 23 innings before Wainwright was yanked as he earned his 11th loss of the season in a 10-0 blowout at Nationals Park.

Wainwright rebounded nicely against the Nationals at Busch Stadium in his final start of the season. He worked six innings of one run ball and set the Cardinals up for an eventual 12-2 victory. The right-hander allowed just six men on base in his 14th win of the season.

His solid showing against the Nationals was a nice close to his regular season after a rough month of September overall. Wainwright had allowed at least four earned runs in three of his previous five starts.

The Nationals will face Wainwright where he had his best start against them and where he fared better for much of the season. Wainwright went 10-6 with a 3.73 ERA in St. Louis, markedly better than his 4-7, 4.20 line on the road.

One thing that may work in the Nationals favor is the fact that Wainwright hasnt pitched since seeing them on the 28th. He was much better this season on four or five days of rest as with at least six days off between starts he posted a 5.21 ERA in three games.

Wainwright missed the postseason last year, but has appeared in ten playoff games in his career. He has one career postseason start, an eight-inning outing against the Dodgers in the 2009 NLDS. Wainwright allowed just one earned run on a homer to Andre Ethier in the game, but the Dodgers ended up winning in the second game of their three game sweep.

The Nationals have had mixed results against Wainwright this year, but the pitcher may have the advantage at home if his 2012 stats hold up. But looking at how inconsistent he has been overall, they may know early which Wainwright has shown up for Game 1.

Quick Links

Capitals send Chandler Stephenson back to Hershey after brief call-up

Capitals send Chandler Stephenson back to Hershey after brief call-up

The Capitals have re-assigned forward Chandler Stephenson to AHL Hershey after a brief call-up to the NHL, the team announced Tuesday.

Stephenson, 22, was recalled on Saturday as a precaution and was a healthy scratch for the team's games on Sunday and Monday.

Washington has been playing with the minimum of 12 forwards at home. With the Caps facing a quick turnaround with a game in Washington on Sunday and in Pittsburgh on Monday, the team needed a spare forward in case of an emergency to ensure the team had someone to plug into the lineup if there was an injury.

The Caps returned home after Monday's game in Pittsburgh and have Tuesday off making carrying Stephenson unnecessary. He may be back very soon, however, as the team will almost certainly call up another player prior to leaving for Thursday's game in St. Louis.

In Hershey, Stephenson has scored 23 points this season in 36 games. He played in nine games with the Caps in 2015-16.

RELATED: Prediction recap: Defense was optional in Pittsburgh

Quick Links

Prediction recap: Defense was optional in Pittsburgh on Monday

Prediction recap: Defense was optional in Pittsburgh on Monday

It was crazy, it was controversial and unfortunately for the Caps, it was a loss. Washington saw its nine-game win streak come to an end on Monday in a crazy 8-7 overtime loss to the Penguins.

Here’s a recap of the three bold predictions.

1. Washington will not score on the power play - Wrong

Defense was optional on Monday so it is perhaps not surprising that one of the Caps’ seven goals came on the power play. T.J. Oshie struck in the third period to make the score 7-6. More on that later.

RELATED: Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

2. Pittsburgh will score three goals or more - More right than I expected

I thought four, maybe five goals on Monday. I didn’t expect eight. You see one of these games every once in awhile where everything just seems to find the back of the net and this was definitely one of them. Things in professional sports always tend to even out. The Caps had four shutouts in six games and were due to allow some goals, I just didn’t expect it to catch up with them all of them in one game.

3. T.J. Oshie will have a multi-point night - Correct

With seven goals, it would have been hard for me to miss on this one. Oshie had three points including his power play goal in the third period for a three-point night.

2017 Results: I finally had a good night with predictions and it was Washington’s first loss in ten games. I’m guessing most readers are going to be rooting against me the next few weeks.

Correct: 7
Wrong: 20
Push: 0

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' win streak snapped in crazy loss to Penguins