The Chicago Cubs (92-70) are the defending World Series champions, but they’re underdogs in the NLDS – and ultimately, Jim Bowden sees Chicago getting bounced early.

“I like the Nationals win this series if (Max) Scherzer’s hamstring is okay,” the MLB Radio host and analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Three of their starting pitchers will end up being top-five Cy Young this year. How many times can you say that? Only elite starting rotations can say that. So Scherzer, (Stephen) Strasburg, Gio (Gonzalez), and even Tanner Roark since the All-Star Break – they’ve got the best starting rotation 1 to 4 entering the postseason. That’s how good they are.”

 

 

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper, who hit .319 with 29 home runs in 111 games, is back to lead the offense.

Then again, the Nationals (97-65) might have enough even without him.

“Even if he’s not (effective), you still got (Daniel) Murphy, you still got (Ryan) Zimmerman, you still got (Anthony) Rendon, you’ve got the speed of Trea Turner, and you’ve got ridiculous power up and down the lineup,” Bowden said. “This Nationals team is a better team than the Chicago Cubs.”

The Cubs won 103 games last year. Regression was to be expected, but no one could have predicted that Chicago would have a losing record at the All-Star Break (43-45). The Cubs went 49-25 in the second half, but they’re still an underdog against Washington.

“Even though the Cubs are basically the same team we saw last year – with (Wade) Davis replacing (Aroldis) Chapman and (Jon) Jay replacing (Dexter) Fowler – the fact of the matter is the starting pitching isn’t what it was a year ago,” Bowden said. “We don’t know about (Jake) Arrieta’s hamstring. We’re waiting to see on that. (Kyle) Hendricks certainly has pitched well lately. (Jon) Lester had a good start Saturday, which was a good sign. But the pitching is just not what it was before. So I like the Nationals in this series. I won’t be surprised if it goes to four or five games. I don’t think it’ll be a quick, easy sweep, but this year, the Nationals are the better team.”

Game 1 is Friday at 7:31 p.m. ET.

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