The St Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals three games to two to win their NL Division Series matchup, and move on to the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. Here are five observations from watching the series.
1. Holy crap, Carlos Beltran is awesome.
What in the hell do you want me to say? Beltran's line for the five game series: .444/.542/.944 with five runs, three doubles, two homers, four RBI, five walks, one strikeout, and just for the hell of it, one stolen base. He's not human. His slugging percentage alone is higher than the OPS of every team in the playoffs. He walked five times, and the entire Tigers team walked seven times in their five games with the Tigers.
2. Washington's loss had nothing to do with a lack of Stephen Strasburg.
Everyone is pointing at the Strasburg shutdown as the reason why the Nationals lost the series. That's a flawed premise. Ross Detwiler threw six shutout innings in his game four start, and he was the guy that replaced Strasburg in the rotation. In game five, which likely would have lined up with a Strasburg start assuming he started game one of the series, Gio Gonzalez allowed three runs in five innings and left the game with a five run lead. Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmermann both would have made their single starts as scheduled. So by claiming that Strasburg's shutdown is why the Nationals lost this series, you're taking the easy way out. You know why the Nationals lost this series? Because they had a .682 OPS as a team (.608 before Friday's offensive outburst), and their great bullpen had a 7.20 ERA and 14 walks in 20 innings during the series. That is *beyond* terrible.
3. Beltran is getting a ton of help from his teammates.
While Beltran's 1.486 OPS is off the charts, it's not as if he's the only Cardinal with a pulse. Last year's hero David Freese has a 1.079 OPS and three doubles. Allen Craig has a 1.014 OPS, two doubles, and four walks. Daniel Descalo somehow has a 1.018 OPS and two homers after just four dingers all year. Even rookie Pete Kozma is in on the act, OPSing .955 with five walks and a homer. While Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday trudge along in the struggle zone, the rest of the Cardinals offense is picking up the slack and then some.
4. Homers can only take you so far.
The Nationals hit seven homers in this series. That's pretty good. However, five of those seven were just solo shots…and the two that weren't were both two-run homers by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse on Friday. You can smash all the longballs you want, but if no one is on base for them to go out of the park, it's not a huge deal. A lot of the blame for that has to go on Bryce Harper, who struggled in the first four games before blowing up in game five. He didn't draw a walk all series, and finished with a .130 OBP.
5. Jaime Garcia has put Mike Matheny in an interesting spot.
After Garcia left game two after just two innings with what would later be revealed as a rotator cuff strain, the Cardinals were down a starter if they would advance to the NLCS. Well, here we are. Common logic says that Lance Lynn, shifted to the bullpen for the playoffs, would take Garcia's turn through the rotation. But Lynn didn't have a good series, getting roughed up for two runs (on a pair of homers mind you) in three innings after replacing Garcia in game two, and allowing Jayson Werth's walkoff homer in game four. It appears Lynn will be getting the call to open the NLCS against Madison Bumgarner, but I'm wondering if there will be a lot of second guessing if things don't go well for him.