NLCS preview: Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez stands in the dugout during the second inning in Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Washington.

    Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez stands in the dugout during the second inning in Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Washington.

 
 
Updated 10/10/2019 7:32 PM

They both handled the pressure, overcame adverse odds and stayed alive in October.

The Washington Nationals battled back against the 106-win Dodgers and won a playoffs series for the first time in five cracks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Trailing Los Angeles 3-0 in Game 5 of the National League division series Wednesday night, the Nats rallied to tie the game off Clayton Kershaw and won 7-3 after Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam in the 10th inning.

The St. Louis Cardinals were down 2-1 vs. the Braves in the NLDS, but they won Game 4 and set a major-league record with 10 runs in the first inning en route to a 13-1 win over Atlanta in Game 5.

Washington and St. Louis advance to the NLCS, with Game 1 of the best-of-seven matchup beginning 7:08 p.m. Friday at Busch Stadium.

Let's take a closer look:

How they got here

After going 93-69 and finishing second in the NL East, Washington rallied to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild-card game and stunned the Dodgers in the NLDS. St. Louis won the NL Central with a 91-71 record and stormed back to beat Atlanta in the division series.

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About the Nationals

They were 19-31 on May 24 and it appeared manager Dave Martinez was on the verge of being fired. Backed by a starting rotation featuring Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, along with MVP candidates Anthony Rendon and 20-year-old Juan Soto, Washington regrouped and went 74-38 the rest of the way while qualifying for the postseason for the fifth time in eight years.

Rendon and Soto have combined for 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 11 RBI in six playoff games. Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin have all pitched three times in October.

About the Cardinals

They are in the playoffs for the first time in four years and should be riding high after exploding for 10 runs in the first inning and beating the Braves at Atlanta in Game 5 of the NLDS. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt was expected to be a difference maker after being acquired in an off-season trade from Arizona. He has met expectations, leading St. Louis with 34 homers and 97 RBI in the regular season.

Dakota Hudson (16-7, 3.35 ERA) had a breakout year after moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation, but Jack Flaherty had a 0.91 ERA after the all-star break and is a legitimate ace.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Local ties

Nationals manager Dave Martinez was the Cubs' bench coach under Joe Maddon from 2015-17. Martinez played for the Cubs from 1986-88 and in 2000, and for the White Sox from 1995-97.

Right fielder Adam Eaton played for the Sox from 2014-16 before being traded to Washington for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Reliever Daniel Hudson pitched for the White Sox in 2009-10. … First-base coach Tim Bogar is a Buffalo Grove High School graduate. … Bullpen coach Henry Blanco coached and played for the Cubs. … General manager Mike Rizzo is a Chicago native and his first major league job was scouting for the Sox (1986-92). … Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler played for the Cubs in 2015-16. … Shortstop Paul DeJong graduated from Antioch High School and played college baseball at Illinois State.

Prediction

Nationals in seven games

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