Today’s Game 1: Washington (Gonzalez 21-8, 2.89 ERA) at St. Louis (Wainwright 14-13, 3.94 ERA), 12:07 p.m. ( TV: TBS)
Matchup: The Nationals took three of four at home against the Cardinals from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, but St. Louis outscored visiting Washington 26-12 during a three-game set Sept. 28-30.
Nationals’ big picture: With one of the youngest rosters in the majors, strong pitching in the rotation and bullpen, and an unexpectedly vibrant offense, the Nationals (98-64) moved into the N.L. East lead for good on May 22 and finished with the best record in baseball. The franchise is making its first postseason appearance since 1981. The team moved to Washington from Montreal before the 2005 season.
Cardinals’ big picture: There’s life after Albert Pujols and former manager Tony La Russa, after all. The wild-card Cardinals won 12 of their last 16 to finish 88-74, matching their high-water mark for the year. They ended up nine games back of first-place Cincinnati in the N.L. Central and were the last team to qualify for the postseason, but their wealth of October experience could be an equalizer.