WASHINGTON (AP) — Thanks to some superb pitching, the countdown is on to the Washington Nationals’ first World Series appearance in franchise history.

Up 2-0 on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series after near no-hitters from Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer, the Nationals turn to historically strong playoff pitcher Stephen Strasburg in Game 3 Monday with the chance to take a stranglehold.

Strasburg takes a 1.32 career postseason ERA to the mound for the first Championship Series game in the nation’s capital. The big right-hander, making the organization’s much-criticized 2012 Strasburg Shutdown look better over time, is 2-0 in the playoffs this fall.

Cardinal’s manager Mike Shildt refused to reveal his Game 3 lineup until Monday. It’s possible he makes a tweak, but after analytics showed his hitters aren’t chasing the ball out of the strike zone at a higher rate, St. Louis is ready to stay the course without major changes.

Teams that have taken a 2-0 lead on the road in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win 88% of the time in MLB history. The first step toward bucking those odds for St. Louis is sending 23-year-old ace Jack Flaherty to the mound in Game 3, and there’s no shortage of belief in what he can do in what should be a raucous atmosphere.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Enter your email to receive the latest news and information directly to your inbox!