There was only a moment during Game 4 of the NLCS on Tuesday when it felt as though whatever weird hex had enveloped the last seven years of Washington Nationals baseball might be ready to rear its ugly head once more. It was in the top of the eighth inning, when the St. Louis Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs and a three-run deficit. Washington had once led 7-0, but a rally by the Cardinals in the middle innings more than halved that advantage, and now, they actually had the tying run on base. It was on this same field, seven years ago, that the Cardinals had erased a 6-0 deficit to win a do-or-die Game 5 in the NLDS, and it was on this same field that the Nationals’ bullpen had let so many games slip away over the years. For a minute, one could see the narrative beginning to snap back into place. But then, Daniel Hudson forced Matt Carpenter to roll over on a groundball to second base, and Washington inched closer to one of the most dominant series victories in recent memory.
The Nationals defeated St. Louis by a score of 7-4 on Tuesday, completing a four-game sweep that secured the first pennant in franchise history. They outscored the Cardinals 20-6 in the series, with their pitchers yielding just five earned runs, seven walks, and one home run while striking out 48 in 36 innings. That works out to a 1.25 ERA, 12 K/9, 1.75 BB/9, and 0.25 HR/9 in the four biggest games of their season. It was the first NLCS sweep since the Mets defeated the Cubs in 2015, and just the third NLCS sweep of the last 24 years.
Patrick Corbin was the latest Washington starting pitcher to baffle Cardinals hitters. He struck out the side in the first inning, and went on to fan seven of the first nine batters he faced and a total of 12 in just five innings of work. He also allowed three walks, along with four runs on four hits. Corbin got swings and misses on 24 of the 94 pitches he threw, giving him a whiff rate of 25.5% that stands as the highest he’s ever registered in a start in his career according to Baseball Savant. Of those 24 whiffs, 16 came against his slider, which he threw a total of 42 times. Just one of those sliders was put into play by a Cardinals batter. Read the rest of this entry »