So it's the Giants.
And since Bumgarner won't pitch twice in the series (well at least won't start twice - who know what crazy things might happen in a Game 5) this is what you wanted as a Nats fan. Of course that means the Nats expected chance of winning the series went from say 65% against the Pirates to 68% for the Giants or something like that but it's something.
The other thing to note from last night is that hotness doesn't matter. No one was playing better than the Nationals down the stretch but the Pirates were close going 17-6 to end the season. All that got 'em was the ticket in. The Nationals should beat the Giants because they are better, not because they had a great finish to September.
You guys know the Nats. As a team they don't have any big weaknesses. The biggest one is offensively they don't have a star batter. This is usually countered with an "everyone is good though" but I'm not 100% that applies at this point> Wilson Ramos has slipped below average and you always worry about catcher "freshness" going into the post-season. Ramos has the added issue of being injured all the time. Adrubal Cabrera is also nothing special at the plate. Better than Espinosa, yes, but not as good as Zimmerman and not... well good. So there is that break at the end of the line-up you hope to avoid. 1-6 though is strong and offers no easy out if Desmond is truly warming back up.
Another weakness we've noted is defense down the RF line as LaRoche and Werth are statuesque but everywhere else the defense is solid or better. So to exploit this weakness you can't just pull the ball you have to pull it enough that Cabrera or Span aren't a factor. And let's not forget the Nats pitchers are good enough to make sure you don't hit the balls there. So it exists but it's difficult for an opponent to expressly go after.
Anything else? Ummm they could use a better LHB on the bench?
What's up with the Giants then?
Offensively they do well. Led by Buster Posey, who is flat out the best hitter on the team and a step above anyone on the Nats, they don't have holes. Morse, Belt, Pence and Sandoval all have good pop (and Crawford can put one out). Panik, Blanco, and Ishikawa do well enough to get on base. Posey was scorching in Sept (.393 / .436 / .607), and Crawford was hot as well. Pence, Sandoval and Ishikawa were cold. As a team they don't walk so that means the Nats tendency for great control won't throw them off their game. They don't strike out much as a team but you can get a big K from Crawford, Morse or Pence.
They are a station to station team stealing only 56 bases during the season. Four guys (Posey, Panik, Sandoval, and Morse) didn't even attempt one.
Overall it's an offense I'd expect to score a couple runs off the Nats, and could pounce on an ineffective starter (see last night). This season's results versus the Nats agree as they scored 1,2,2,2,6,7, and 10 runs in games. When the Nats are on, they can't shut the Giants out but can hold them down. When the Nats are off things get dicey.
Pitching wise the Giants are good but not great. Bumgarner is great and we saw last night he could hold the Nats in check. That's bad news... for one game. The other starters are less reliable.
Hudson is a 38 and had a errible September. His best outing was 6 innings, 3 runs. But he's had a better year overall than Vogelsong and it's not like Vogelsong forced the issue. His Sept was bad too. Hudson is a control guy now. Doesn't K, keeps the ball in play. Nats always seemed to hit him eventually in the past, but never really killed him. I don't expect anything different now.
Peavy has had a little re-birth in San Fran after mostly floundering since '09 (2012 was good). He's concentrated on control with San Fran which is good but has been helped out by a ridiculously low HR rate. The Giants are really counting on Peavy thinking he could be that #2 ace In Nats park they could get to him I imagine.
They could hold him for SF then but their 3rd or 4th guy out there is almost certainly Petit and he is night and day depending on location. 2.74 ERA in SF, 5.06 elsewhere. Oddly it's not a HR thing Instead the walks go up and power across the board is more pronounced. It is a little bit of a mirage though. He should be doing better away than what we see. Of course the biggest thing is that he's a converted reliever who only spot-started this year before the end of August so he doesn't go deep into games. 93 pitches max. How's he done while starting is the bigger deal and he's been... ok. He has good stuff. He can strike out guys and he doesn't walk guys, but he gets hit and as a starter has shown a tendency to give up the long ball. I like the Nats against him
The Giants pen hasn't had a great year but did finish strong, with five guys posting a 2.57 ERA or under. It's a competent group who don't give up a lot of hits or walks but outside of Romo and Cordier the arms the Nats are likely to see aren't special. It's a gettable group if you can get to them outside of say the last 5 outs or so.
What do I see? Well it's not going to be a sweep. Giants are too good. Travel is too far. Things just happen. But I see a 3-1 series win. If you want to go crazy and go game by game AND score for games... well it's nonsense but here :
Game 1 : 6-4 Nats (Stras gives up an early HR, but Nats get to Hudson, minor scare late)
Game 2 : 2-1 Nats (Peavy is good, but ZNN is better)
Game 3 : 5-0 Giants (Bumgarner shuts Nats down, Fister gets nickeled and dimed)
Game 4 : 8-1 Nats (Petit is off, bullpen not good either, Gio cruises)