By Ken Boehlke

San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals

Series Price – SF (+150) WAS (-170)
NL Pennant – SF (+500) WAS (+200)
World Series – SF (+1200) WAS (+550)

The Nationals might be the most well rounded team in the playoffs. They have a very good lineup, their starting pitching is excellent, and the bullpen is downright nasty on the back end. Finally, the time has come for Washington to see what Stephen Strasburg can do in the postseason. The decision to shut him down a two years ago looked like a mistake at the time, but if Strasburg can come through and dominate this year, the choice may just pay off. But this Giants team has a habit of making things awfully difficult on opposing pitchers in the postseason. In the Wild Card game they took it to Edinson Volquez who was previously unhittable, and they’ve won the World Series each of the last two times they’ve been in the playoffs.

Starting pitching is a bit of a question mark for the Giants now that Madison Bumgarner won’t pitch until Game 3. They’ll go with Jake Peavy in Game 1 and then follow with Tim Hudson in Game 2. Both are veterans who have plenty of playoff experience, but when matched up with Strasburg and then Jordan Zimmerman or Doug Fister, the Nationals clearly have the edge. Also, Peavy is historically brutal in the second season. His career ERA is pushing 10 and despite the Red Sox winning all three games he appeared in last season, he only made it to the 6th inning once.

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The lineups are what makes this a rather interesting series. Washington is full of solid hitters, but with Ryan Zimmerman’s health still in question, the Giants may actually have the edge. Pablo Sandoval who had been struggling appeared to finally break out in the Wild Card game, and a hot panda could be the difference. It will be Bryce Harper’s first trip to the postseason and he’ll be expected to carry some of the load for this inexperienced Nationals team. If the Nationals can hit, the Giants have no chance, but if the Nats go into one of the mini-slumps they were prone to all year, even their pitching might not be enough to knock off San Fran.

All in all, you almost have to lean on the better pitching, specifically in a National League series. Scoring runs on Strasburg, Zimmerman, Fister and Gio Gonzalez is going to be awfully tough, and even though the Giants lineup is good, it’s not good enough to predict outbursts against these studs. There’s certainly a little concern that the Nationals may have some trouble scoring themselves, but the pitching matchups favor the Nats so much that there’s no way to predict they lose this series.

Pick: Washington Nationals (-170)

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