History is Knocking on Nationals' Door. Can They Answer With Sweep of Cardinal?

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The Washington Nationals head into Game 4 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Stadium on Tuesday afternoon with a chance to complete a sweep of the NL Central champions. With an 8-1 win on Monday, the Cardinals became the 38th team in history to take a 3-games-to-none edge in a post-season series. Thirty-six of the previous 37 have gone on to win the Series.

The lone exception was the Yankees, who saw the Boston Red Sox recover from losing the first three games in the 2004 ALCS, but then run off a four-game winning streak.

The Nationals have built their success around a pitching staff that has allowed one or fewer runs in each of the first three games, the first time a team has done that in a single post-season series.

And it was Stephen Strasburg who orchestrated the success in Game 3, pitching seven shutout innings, and giving Nationals starting pitchers a streak of 25 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, the second longest in post-season history to the 44 innings turned in by the starters for the New York Giants in the 1905 World Series.

But then that's nothing new for Strasburg. His 1.10 ERA n the post-season is second lowest all time through seven career post-season appearances (minimum 35 innings) to Sandy Koufax, who had a 0.88 post-season ERA.

Now, Strasburg is only 4-2 in seven appearance, but those were his first two post-season starts, and he allowed four runs, but only one earned run, in 12 innings of those two games.

This is a Nationals team that entered the post-season on a roll. On May 23, they were 19-31, but rallie dto become the fourth team in post-season history to rally from at least 12 games below .500 in the regular season to advanced the post-season.

The 1914 Boston Braves won the World Series. The two others -- the 2005 Houston Astros and 1973 New York Mets -- lost the World Series.

The Nationals did benefit from the wild-card, qualifying after finishing in second place during the regular season to the Atlanta Braves. They have, however, benefited from being invited to the party. They are still alive in the bid for a world championship after the Braves were eliminated in the best-of-five Division Series by the Cardinals.

The Cardinals were far from an offensive power during the regular season. They finished 11th in the NL with a .245 average and 10th with 764 runs scored. But that seems like an explosive lineup compared to what they have managed to do against the Nationals in the first three games of the NLCS. They are 0-for-36 against left-handed pitching, the second worst start in post-season history to the Browns, who began the 1944 World Series going 0-for-41 against right-handed pitchers from the Cardinals. Overall, they are hitting .121 in the NLCS with two runs scored and 11 hits in 91 at-bats.

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