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Cubs/Nationals

Kyle Hendricks stole the show in Game 1, as Washington’s defense took away from what was an otherwise dominant Stephen Strasburg performance and turned it into a loss. However, if the Nationals can bounce back with a Game 2 victory they have Max Scherzer looming in Game 3, and would have to feel pretty good about their chances to take the series.

Gio Gonzalez is no slouch himself, of course, as his 2.96 ERA this season was paired with a similarly impressive 3.36 DRA despite a league-high 76 walks. Gonzalez beat the Cubs on June 26 in what was a fairly typical outing for him this year: five walks and 113 pitches in six innings, but just two hits and one run allowed. He walked three or more batters in 17 of 32 starts this season, but held opponents to a .193 batting average when the ball stayed in the ballpark.

Last year at this time the Cubs would have felt fantastic about leading the series 1-0 with Jon Lester on the mound, but he’s a big question mark following a rough second half. Lester had a 5.17 ERA in 15 starts after June 1, serving up 14 homers in 78 innings, but he did finish the regular season with back-to-back solid outings. How he looks in this game will be huge, not only for the Cubs’ chances of knocking off the Nationals but for their World Series outlook overall.

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) at Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez), 5:38 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 61% Nationals, 39% Cubs

Projected Starting Lineups

Cubs vs. Gonzalez (L)

Nationals vs. Lester (L)

Albert Almora (R) CF

Trea Turner (R) SS

Kris Bryant (R) 3B

Bryce Harper (L) RF

Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B

Anthony Rendon (R) 3B

Willson Contreras (R) C

Daniel Murphy (L) 2B

Addison Russell (R) SS

Ryan Zimmerman (R) 1B

Ben Zobrist (S) RF

Jayson Werth (R) LF

Javier Baez (R) 2B

Matt Wieters (S) C

Ian Happ (S) LF

Michael Taylor (R) CF

Jon Lester (L) SP

Gio Gonzalez (R) SP

Injuries/Availability

Chicago used Carl Edwards and Wade Davis for an inning apiece in Game 1, but they each threw just 11 pitches, so the Cubs’ bullpen should be fully available. Washington may try to stay away from Ryan Madson, who threw 24 pitches in Game 1, but Brandon Kintzler should be good to go after using only 16 pitches in his inning of work. Sean Doolittle is fully rested.

With a left-hander on the mound for both teams, the managers have an opportunity to tinker with the lineup. That likely means Albert Almora and Ian Happ will see their first extended action of the series for Chicago, but Washington is less likely to make alterations unless Howie Hendrick finds his way into the mix.

Outlook

Perhaps this can be said about most playoff games, but Game 2 seems to have a little extra weight behind it thanks to Scherzer waiting in the wings for Game 3. Either the Cubs will take a 2-0 lead and put the Nationals on the brink of elimination heading to Wrigley Field, or Washington will tie things at 1-1 with the potential Cy Young award winner on the hill. Game 1 was key, but Game 2 is where the series chooses one of two distinct paths.

PECOTA projects the Nationals as favorites tonight, but the margin boils down to little more than their having home-field advantage.

Diamondbacks/Dodgers

Today’s second all-southpaw matchup, as the Diamondbacks look to bounce back from a rough Game 1. Los Angeles jumped out to a 1-0 series lead, but Arizona can perhaps find some solace in the fact that they got to Clayton Kershaw for four home runs and at least made things interesting despite a horrible start from Taijuan Walker. Now the Diamondbacks can turn to Robbie Ray, whom they likely would have started in Game 1 if not for using him as a reliever in the Wild Card game, and a win tonight would even the series heading to Arizona with Zack Greinke set for Game 3.

Of course, evening the series will be a big challenge against Rich Hill, who was brilliant in September with a 1.86 ERA, .141 opponents’ batting average, and 40 strikeouts in 29 innings. Hill faced Arizona four times this season and it was a mixed bag, with two bad starts and two good starts, the last of which was six innings of two-run ball on September 4 at Dodger Stadium. Ray faced the Dodgers five times this season, going 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Rich Hill), 9:08 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 64% Dodgers, 36% Diamondbacks

Projected Starting Lineups

Diamondbacks vs. Hill (L)

Dodgers vs. Ray (L)

David Peralta (L) LF

Chris Taylor (R) CF

A.J. Pollock (R) CF

Corey Seager (L) SS

Paul Goldschmidt (R) 1B

Justin Turner (R) 3B

J.D. Martinez (R) RF

Cody Bellinger (L) 1B

Chris Iannetta (R) C

Enrique Hernandez (R) LF

Brandon Drury (R) 2B

Austin Barnes (R) C

Jake Lamb (L) 3B

Yasiel Puig (R) RF

Ketel Marte (S) SS

Logan Forsythe (R) 2B

Robbie Ray (L) SP

Rich Hill (L) SP

Injuries/Availability

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo benched Lamb against Kershaw in Game 1, but the lefty-hitting third baseman figures be back in there versus Hill despite ugly numbers off lefties all season. Jeff Mathis drew the Game 1 assignment behind the plate, but Iannetta offers a much better bat and crushed left-handers during the regular season. Dave Roberts will dip into his platoon options for Game 2, likely giving starts to Barnes and Hernandez as the Dodgers load up on right-handed hitters against Ray.

If nothing else, the Diamondbacks’ quasi-comeback in Game 1 led to the Dodgers using setup man Brandon Morrow and closer Kenley Jansen for an inning apiece, but neither threw enough pitches to make them unavailable tonight. Arizona should also have a full mix of bullpen options, thanks to Zack Godley’s innings-eating effort in relief of Walker.

Outlook

Because they had to win the Wild Card game before anything else could matter, the Diamondbacks were not able to put their best foot (or at least best pitchers) forward to begin the NLDS. That changes tonight, as Ray takes the mound against Hill in what should be much more of a fair fight than the Walker-Kershaw mismatch. PECOTA sees the Dodgers as slightly less than 2-to-1 favorites.

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