Powell: NLDS Game 1 Preview – Cubs not Feeling the Pressure to Repeat

Nationals Park before Game 1 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals. (WGN Radio/Kevin Powell)

By Kevin Powell

WASHINGTON – Somehow, the Cubs enter the National League Division Series as the underdogs. Maybe some have overlooked their strong second half when they posted the best post-All-Star break record in the NL. Maybe some just think it’s the Nats’ year. Whatever the case may be, there’s no question all of the pressure sits on the Nationals, a team full of talent, but unable to get over the postseason hump.

“The level of pressure is about the same,” game one starter Kyle Hendricks said. “In playoff games, every pitch is important. That’s really the only way we look at it. In terms of the history and trying to repeat, we’re just focused on trying to winning ball games.”

The Nationals have won the NL East four of the last six years, but haven’t won a postseason series in that period. Listening to local sports talk radio on the way to the park, the host and listeners all preached that this is the Nationals best team yet, even without an injured Adam Eaton. The pressure is on them.

“Going forward, we really have nothing to lose,” game two starter Jon Lester said. “I think we’re in a good place. I like this team being underdogs. I like that. We’ve got some very prideful guys on this team.”

It may be a lazy narrative to point the Nationals struggles in the postseason, but it’s difficult to completely ignore. 0-for-4 in playoff series? That’s not good. For a team that’s stacked, all the pressure is undoubtedly on the Nats.

PREDICTION

I just can’t pick against the Cubs. The sense in the clubhouse feels the same as this time last year. They’re motivated. They’re full of talent. And they want a repeat. I’m picking the Cubs in five.

LINEUP

Zobrist RF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Contreras C

Schwarber LF

Russell SS

Heyward CF

Baez 2B

Hendricks P

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

I’ll be live from Nationals Park all afternoon on the Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, 3-7 P.M.

TBS will air the game. 6:30 P.M. CDT. Immediately following the game on WGN Radio we’ll have True Blue, our Cubs postgame show. Follow me @kpowell720 on Twitter for updates from Washington.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720