MLB Network's Lauren Shehadi not betting against Nationals staff originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Defense win championships, point guards win in March Madness, and pitching wins in October. Clichés? Sure. But they're clichés for a reason because more often than not they end up true.
The Nationals saw it themselves in 2019, when they rode their stellar starting pitching - along with a few star hitters, as well - to their World Series championship. Things didn't go as well in 2020, but the Nationals are once again doubling down on their starting rotation as they hope to bounce back and challenge the reigning World Series champion Dodgers in October.
And according to at least one MLB Network analyst, they have the horses to do it.
“You’re betting against that staff?" MLB Network's Lauren Shehadi asked during an interview with the Nationals Talk podcast this week. "Like to me, if you go back in years, from the Dodgers with Kershaw, Buehler and May, all the way back to Scherzer and Strasburg and Corbin, back to the Astros, back to the Red Sox and Porcello and Sale and David Price, you cannot survive the postseason without, in my opinion, three studs in your rotation. You can’t. You can have Gerrit Cole, but if you don’t have a two-three-four, you’re not going to get there."
Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin have all been there for the Nationals, and while those three veterans are another two years older from the 2019 postseason run, the team has added proven depth behind them.
And Jon Lester isn't any old veteran depth. He's a successful pitcher with postseason experience and a reputation for shining when the lights are brightest.
"To me, I look at this rotation and put them against anyone, matching not only against the NL East but in baseball," Shehadi continued. "Because they’re a bunch of winners, number one. They’re proven winners. You add Jon Lester, and I get it, he’s not 26-year old Jon Lester, but he’s a big-game guy. He rises to the occasion every single time."
The Nationals still need to figure out how their lineup beyond MVP candidate Juan Soto will play over the course of a full season, and of course, they need their staff to stay healthy. The competition won't be easy, either, with the Braves and Mets within their division and the Dodgers and Padres vying for the title of the best team in the sport.
But the Nationals have a top-10 rotation in baseball, and sometimes that's all it takes to topple giants in October.