June 23, 2017

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

At least there’s not a lot of time to sit and think about it.

After a weekend sweep by the Mets in New York closed out a 3-7 road trip for the Nationals (54-49), they return home for a seven game home stand, beginning with four games against the Diamondbacks (50-53).

The Nationals are in the midst of 20 straight games without a day off, and the series against the Diamondbacks begins a stretch of 17 straight games against National League West opponents. The Mets, now tied with the Nationals for first place in the East, begin a road trip through Florida where they will play the Marlins and then the Rays this weekend.

*The Last Time…

The Nationals took two out of three from the Diamondbacks in Arizona in May. For a team that hasn’t scored many runs recently maybe four games against the D-Backs will help – the Nationals put up 11, 6, and 9 runs in the three game series in May.

*In The Other Dugout

The Diamondbacks were neither buyers nor sellers at the trade deadline. In fact, they were the only team in Major League Baseball not to make a deal at the trading deadline. Despite entering the series with the Nationals three games under .500, the Diamondbacks aren’t completely out of the race yet – they’re 9 games back of the Dodgers in the National League West, but only six and a half back of the Giants and Cubs in the chase for the second wild card spot.

*Matchup To Watch

Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t faced Nationals pitchers too much in his career, but his numbers against Gio Gonzalez stand out – he’s 4 for 6 against Wednesday night’s Nationals starter.

*Probables

Monday, 7:05pm: Zack Godley (2-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (4-6, 4.39 ERA)

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Patrick Corbin (2-3, 3.21 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (11-8, 2.22 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:05pm: Rubby De La Rosa (8-5, 4.59 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.75 ERA)

Thursday, 4:05pm: Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 4.95 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (2-3, 3.00 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: New York Mets

It looked for all the world like we were right back where we were when the Mets and Nationals met July 20-22, with the Nats (54-46) two games in front of the Mets (52-50).

Instead, Washington holds a 3-game lead over New York (more on that in a minute), as the two teams open a 3-game series at Citi Field.

The Nationals, after taking two of three in Miami, are now 3-4 on their 10-game road trip. The Mets are coming off a series with the Padres where they won the first game and have lost two straight.

*The Last Time…

In that last three game series the Nationals took two of three from the Mets. The Nationals are 6-4 on the season against the Mets, including 3-1 in New York.

*In The Other Dugout

Just how bad a 24-hour stretch was it for Mets fans beginning at 7pm on Wednesday night? First the Padres soundly beat the Mets, 7-3, on Wednesday night in a game that was no contest from the start. During the game, word spread over social media, on game broadcasts, and into the Mets dugout that the Mets had traded Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler for Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez. After the game, of course, the deal was revealed to have fallen apart, and the Mets were right back at it on the field Thursday afternoon. They took a 7-1 lead, which after a Derek Norris grand slam turned to a 7-5 lead which the Mets held until there were two outs in the ninth. At that time the rain at Citi Field got so bad that the umpires decided to delay the game, and when the 9th inning resumed 45 minutes later the Padres put together back-to-back singles, and a home run by Justin Upton gave San Diego the lead. Another rain delay followed, and the Mets lost just before 7pm Thursday evening, losing another game in the standings to the Nationals, who saw their new trade acquisition, Jonathan Papelbon, secure a one-run win. Don’t be surprised if the Mets pull off one more move before the deadline ahead of the opening game of this series.

*Matchup To Watch

Bryce Harper is still hitless against Matt Harvey, now 0 for 14, but Harvey looked to be pitching Harper very carefully the last time the two faced off. It’s worth watching how Harvey approaches Harper Friday night, especially since he was mostly ineffective against a Nationals team that did not feature Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth about ten days ago.

Two Mets worth watching: Daniel Murphy, not a huge home run threat, is 19 for 56 (.339) against Jordan Zimmermann with three homers in his career. Juan Lagares is 10 for 22 with 3 doubles, a triple, and a homer against Gio Gonzalez.

*Probables

Friday, 7:10pm: Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.83 ERA) vs. Matt Harvey (9-7, 3.16 ERA)

Saturday, 7:10pm: Joe Ross (2-3, 3.03 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (10-6, 2.05 ERA)

Sunday, 8:00pm: Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 3.36 ERA) vs. Noah Syndergaard (5-5, 2.70 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Miami Marlins

The Washington Nationals look to bounce back from a rough series in Pittsburgh as they continue their 10-game road trip with three in Miami.

The Nats (52-45) lost three out of four in Pittsburgh, but face a free-falling team in the Marlins (41-58). Jayson Werth will reportedly rejoin the lineup on Tuesday, as the Nationals enter the series holding a two-game lead in the National League East, with a matchup in New York against the second-place Mets looming this weekend, with newly-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard available in the Mets pen.

The Last Time…

The last time the Nationals and Marlins faced off was in early May. The Nationals took two out of three from Miami in Washington, as the teams came into that series separated by just a half-game in the standings. (The Nationals are now 12 games in front of Miami.) The Marlins swept a three game series in April in Miami.

In The Other Dugout

The good news: The Nationals will not have to face Giancarlo Stanton in this series. Stanton will begin hitting a ball off a tee as he comes back from a wrist injury, but is not expected to rejoin the Marlins anytime soon. Dee Gordon, on the other hand, may be back from the DL during the series — he suffered a thumb injury just before the All-Star break.

The bad news: The Marlins’ young ace Jose Fernandez has been stellar since coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the Nationals will face him in the series opener on Tuesday night.

Matchup To Watch

If Werth returns for the series, his timing couldn’t be much better — he is hitting .346 combined against Tom Koehler and Dan Haren, Wednesday and Thursday’s Marlins starters. He has two homers against Koehler and one against Haren. He’s only 1 for 8 against Jose Fernandez…but that one hit is also a home run.

For the Marlins, Martin Prado is a combined 15-for-33 against Jordan Zimmermann and Max Scherzer.

Probables

Tuesday, 7:10pm: Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 3.30 ERA) vs. Jose Fernandez (3-0, 2.77 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:10pm: Doug Fister (3-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Tom Koehler (8-6, 3.16 ERA)

Thursday, 12:10pm: Max Scherzer (10-8, 2.33 ERA) vs. Dan Haren (7-6, 3.51 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Nationals (51-42) kick off a 10-game road trip in Pittsburgh against the Pirates (54-40).

The Nats, courtesy of their 8th inning comeback Wednesday afternoon against the Mets, enter the  four game series 3 games in front of New York in the National League East.

The Pirates own the second-best record in the National League, but the only team with a better record (and in fact the best record in the majors) is the St. Louis Cardinals, who lead the Pirates in the Central by six games.

*The Last Time…

The Nationals and Pirates last faced off a month ago in Washington. The Pirates came into the series as the hottest team in baseball, but the Nationals cooled them off quickly, sweeping the 3-game series, which featured Max Scherzer’s no-hitter…and near perfect game.

*In The Other Dugout

The Pirates went rolling into the All Star break, beating their division rival Cardinals three out of four games to end the first half. But things have not gone the Pirates’ way coming out of the break. Not only has the team lost five of six, but they lost shortstop Jordy Mercer to an MCL sprain earlier this week. He joins infielder Josh Harrison on the disabled list, with neither one expected back before September.

*Matchup To Watch

Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez is 4-for-7 against Thursday night’s starter, Doug Fister. After that, though, Alvarez is a combined 0-for-18 against the three remaining Nationals starters in the series.

*Probables

Thursday, 7:05pm: Doug Fister (3-5, 4.30 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-6, 2.98 ERA)

Friday, 7:05pm: Max Scherzer (10-8, 2.09 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (5-6, 4.01 ERA)

Saturday, 7:05pm: Gio Gonzalez (7-4, 3.93 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (8-3, 2.44 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35pm: Joe Ross (2-2, 2.70 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.31 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: New York Mets

The National League East is about to get a whole lot more exciting…or a whole lot more boring. The Nationals (49-41) open up a three game series with the Mets (48-44), a team they enter the series leading by just two games in the National League East. Six of the Nationals’ next 13 games are against the Mets, so by the first weekend in August we’ll probably have a better picture of how the East will shake out.

For the Nationals the series also marks the end of a “homestand” where they haven’t had to travel far since July 2nd, when they were in Atlanta to face the Braves. The Nationals had two home series and then a series in Baltimore before the All Star break (when players traveled for different reasons), then this six game homestand. Next the Nationals play ten games on the road, in Pittsburgh, in Miami, and then in New York against the Mets again.

By that series at Citi Field the trade deadline will have passed, and we’ll get an idea if the National League East will be a two-team race…or whether the Nationals will have put some distance between themselves and the pack and can focus on getting healthy for October.

*The Last Time…

The Mets and Nationals haven’t seen each other since early May, when the Nationals took three out of four against the Mets in New York. In that series the teams split the first two games before the Nationals posted back-to-back 1-0 wins, a sign of offensive struggles to come for the Mets. The Mets took two out of three in the season-opening series between the two teams.

*In The Other Dugout

Just how badly do the Mets need an offensive spark? Their starting pitchers have out-hit their bench players, for one thing. Pitching is far and away the Mets’ strength (on the mound as well as at the plate). Jacob deGrom gave the baseball world a peek at just how strong when he struck out the side on 10 pitches in his inning of work during the All Star Game. The Mets adjusted their rotation coming out of the All Star break so that deGrom and Matt Harvey would face the Nationals in this series…Noah Syndergaard will start the third game. What Mets fans really want to see, though, is an adjustment to the lineup, so those pitchers get the run support they have lacked most of the season.

*Matchup To Watch

The Mets could get an early indication of how their offense will go against Washington in the first game. Juan Lagares (.421), Michael Cuddyer (.375), and Daniel Murphy (.350) have all hit well against Gio Gonzalez. If those core lineup pieces hit, the Mets might actually score some runs. Also worth noting for Monday night: Bryce Harper is 0 for 12 with 6 strikeouts against Matt Harvey.

The best pitching matchup could very well come in Wednesday’s early start, and not just because Noah Syndergaard will be sending an extra vowel against Jordan Zimmermann’s double consonants. The day game after the night game is one factor, but Noah Syndergaard has also given up just three runs and struck out 19 in his last two starts.

*Probables

Monday, 7:00pm: Matt Harvey (8-6, 3.07 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.99 ERA)

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.14 ERA) vs. Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.43 ERA)

Wednesday, 12:35pm: Noah Syndergaard (4-5, 3.05 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 3.27 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

After the four-day All Star break, the Washington Nationals (48-39) hit the ground running in the second half. Thirteen of their next sixteen games are against contenders in the National League — the first place Los Angeles Dodgers, the second place Pittsburgh Pirates, and two series against the New York Mets, who finished the first half on a four-game winning streak and trail the Nats by just two games in the National League East.

The Nationals start at home with three games against the Dodgers (51-39), the first time the teams have met this season. The Nationals will make one more trip out west this season — next month — where they will face the Dodgers in Los Angeles. After that they will travel no further west than St. Louis…unless, of course, they face the Dodgers in the post-season, a realistic possibility.

The Last Time…

The Nationals and Dodgers last faced off September in Los Angeles, with the Nationals taking two out of three. Washington also beat the Dodgers two games out of three in Washington last May. The only two Dodgers wins against the Nationals last year came with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Kershaw gave up just one run in 15 innings against the Nats in 2014. Kershaw starts against the Nationals on Friday night.

In The Other Dugout

The Dodgers are four and a half games in front of the Giants in the National League West, but they are actively searching for another piece, specifically a starting pitcher. When the Nationals head to Los Angeles next month it’s probable there will be another big name pitcher in the Dodgers’ rotation. If you missed Joc Pederson’s show in the Home Run Derby Monday night, enjoy watching him play this weekend in Washington: he’s one of the most exciting young players in the game right now. His power comes in spurts — he had a run where he homered in five straight games in late May/early June. Beware: he’s in a drought right now, not having homered yet in the month of July. The Nationals have to hope the Derby didn’t help him find his power stroke.

Matchups To Watch

There is bad news from the matchup department: The Nationals with the best numbers against Clayton Kershaw are Ryan Zimmerman (.438) and Jayson Werth (.346 with 2 home runs). Of course, the common thread there is that neither one is healthy for this series.

Better news against Zack Greinke? No. Denard Span is 10 for 33 (.303) against Greinke — by far the best numbers for a Washington hitter against the Dodgers’ second ace. Span was placed on the disabled list right before the All Star break.

Probables

Friday, 7:05pm: Mike Bolsinger (4-3, 3.08 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 3.22 ERA)

Saturday, 4:05pm: Clayton Kershaw (6-6, 2.85 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (3-4, 4.08 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35pm: Zack Greinke (8-2, 1.39 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (10-7, 2.11 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

The best thing about the Nationals’ upcoming series with the Orioles is that they’re not playing the Reds anymore. The Nationals just haven’t been able to figure out Cincinnati this year — going 0-5 before Wednesday’s postponement.

The other good thing is that after they finish with the Orioles (43-42) on Sunday, the Nationals (46-38) will be off until Friday, and for a team bitten more than its fair share by the injury bug this season, those four days of rest could be key for a player like Denard Span, who will miss the Baltimore series, and it gives the team recovery days without players missing game time for those already on the disabled list, like Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg.

The Nationals could be catching the Orioles at a good time — Baltimore has lost six of its last seven and eight of ten overall. Washington enters the weekend with a three game lead over the Mets, who went 4-2 against the Dodgers and Giants in a west coast swing. The Mets close out the first half schedule against Arizona in New York.

The Last Time…

The last time the Nationals played the Orioles was Aug. 4, 2014 in a makeup game, which the Orioles won 7-3. It was postponed from July, when the Orioles and Nationals matched up in a four-game series with two home games apiece. The Nationals lost both games in Washington (including the makeup game), and the teams split the two games in Baltimore. They’ll meet again this year in late September in Washington…when a lot could be at stake.

In The Other Dugout

No one is out of it in the American League East. The Boston Red Sox are four games below .500 and are just five and a half games out of first place. So while the Orioles might not be thrilled about the fact that they are just a game above .500, they have to be happy that record is good enough for second place in the division. They’re three games behind the first-place Yankees.

Matchup To Watch

Two former Orioles All-Stars who have had less-than All-Star-caliber seasons for Baltimore are worth watching against the Nationals this weekend: Matt Wieters is 8 for 14 (.571) with a home run and a double against Friday night starter Gio Gonzalez, and Chris Davis is 5 for 13 (.385) against Sunday’s starter Doug Fister, with two of those hits home runs.

Probables

Friday, 7:05pm: Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (6-7, 5.57 ERA)

Saturday, 7:15pm: Jordan Zimmermann (7-5, 3.04 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (7-5, 3.87 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35pm: Doug Fister (3-4, 4.08 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (4-4, 2.82 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds

After their holiday weekend sweep of the Giants, the Nationals (46-36) really seem to have found their stride. They allowed just five runs in the three-game series as they increased their lead in the National League East to four and a half games over the Mets.

In the penultimate series before the All Star break the Nationals will welcome the Cincinnati Reds (36-44) to Nationals Park. The Reds are floundering along in fourth place in the National League Central, giving fans nothing to look forward to other than the fact that Great American Ball Park will host next week’s All Star Game.

With the Nationals rolling and the Reds scuffling (they’re coming off a three-game sweep by the last-place Brewers) it would seem to be a recipe for success for Washington. Except there is a little matter of….

*The Last Time…

The Reds hosted the Nationals the last weekend in May in a similar situation. The Nats had taken two out of three in a competitive series with the Cubs and seemed to be about to run away with the division…and then the Reds swept them by scores of 5-2, 8-5, and 8-2. The Nationals are playing better baseball now than they were at the end of May…but they will have to go through Johnny Cueto in this series. Cueto was on the disabled list when the Nationals were in Cincinnati.

*In The Other Dugout

Cueto has had a stellar year so far on the mound, and at the plate no member of the Reds has been hotter than Todd Frazier. Frazier enters the series with 25 homers (tied for second in the National League with Bryce Harper) and 24 doubles (tied for the league lead with Anthony Rizzo). This is the last time the Nationals will see the Reds this year: it will be interesting to see which players the Reds move following the All Star Game. Frazier, the National League’s starting third baseman in the All Star Game, is a candidate to be traded by the trade deadline.

*Matchup To Watch

A couple of interesting notes from Wednesday’s pitching matchup: Joey Votto is 5 for 12 (.417) with two home runs against Gio Gonzalez.

As for the Nationals – they faced Michael Lorenzen when the Nationals faced the Reds in May, and scored twice against him in an 8-2 Reds win, but Wednesday night’s lineup will be 0 for 17 against Lorenzen with four strikeouts. He walked six batters, leading to the runs, and he allowed just one hit. But the only Nationals player with a hit against Lorenzen in that game isn’t scheduled to hit Wednesday: it was Tanner Roark.

*Probables

Monday, 7:05pm: Anthony DeSclafani (5-6, 3.68 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (3-4, 4.34 ERA)

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Johnny Cueto (5-5, 2.84 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (9-6, 1.82 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:05pm: Michael Lorenzen (3-3, 3.58 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: San Francisco Giants

After dropping two out of three against the Braves in Atlanta, the Nationals return home for a holiday weekend matchup with the San Francisco Giants.

The Nationals (43-36) begin the series three and a half games in front of the Mets (40-40), and five in front of the Braves (38-41). The Giants enter the series after being swept by the Marlins in a three-game series in Miami.

*The Last Time…

The last time the Nationals met the Giants, of course, was the National League Division Series, which the Giants took in 4 games. The lone Nationals win in the series was by a score of 4-1, and the three losses were all by a run, including the epic 18-inning Game 2.

In the regular season the Nationals took two out of three from the Giants in Washington in August, and three out of four in San Francisco last June.

*In The Other Dugout

This is a time of the year the Giants have had their eye on for some time. They’ve kept themselves in the hunt in the National League West – they were in first place for a good part of the season and now trail the Dodgers by just three games – and instead of working towards a trade deadline deal, the defending World Series champs have just had to wait for some injured players to get healthy.

The Nationals won’t see Matt Cain this weekend, who pitched for the first time this season on Thursday against the Marlins. (National League East note: he pitched against Jose Fernandez, who made his return for Miami.) The Nats will face Jake Peavy, who made two starts in early April before heading to the disabled list. The Giants finally have the starting rotation they want…but they’re down a position player: Hunter Pence might not return until after the All Star break as he recovers from wrist tendinitis. The news could be worse – Buster Posey left Wednesday night’s game after taking a foul ball off his mask, but he was back in the lineup for the Giants at first base on Thursday. Expect to see Posey against the Nationals.

*Matchup To Watch

A couple of players worth keeping an eye on this holiday weekend:

-Denard Span is 7 for 20 (.350) with 5 doubles against Jake Peavy, and 5 for 13 (.385) against Ryan Vogelsong.

-For the Giants, Justin Maxwell is 4 for 8 with a home run off Friday night’s starter Gio Gonzalez, but he is 0 for 7 with 6 strikeouts against Sunday night’s starter Jordan Zimmermann.

*Probables

Friday, 6:00pm: Jake Peavy (0-2, 9.39 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (5-4, 4.41 ERA)

Saturday, 11:05am: Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.99 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (5-5, 5.49 ERA)

Sunday, 8:00pm: Ryan Vogelsong (6-6, 4.19 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (6-5, 3.16 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

As terrible as June has seemed at times for the Nationals, they might be sorry to see it go.

After starting the month 6-11, the Nationals have found their stride this month, finishing up 8-1 to enter their last game of the month – and the first game of a 3-game set with the Braves – at 14-12 overall in June.

The Nationals (42-34) head to Atlanta 6 games ahead of the Braves (36-40), and two and a half games in front of the second-place Mets. The Mets open up a series with the Cubs in New York.

*The Last Time…

If the Nationals didn’t turn their season around on April 28th, when they came from behind to beat the Braves 13-12, they at least set a tone for their play against Atlanta this season. After losing to the Braves in the teams’ first matchup this year, the Nationals have now won 8 straight against Atlanta, including last week’s three-game sweep in Washington.

*In The Other Dugout

As hot as the Nationals have been lately, the Braves have been cold. The Braves have lost five of six to drop four games below the .500 mark and face Washington with Freddie Freeman still on the disabled list. The Braves do get to give the Nationals their best shot – Shelby Miller, Tuesday’s starter for Atlanta, went seven strong innings against the Nationals last week. Matt Wisler will pitch the second game in his third major league start, and Manny Banuelos will make his major league debut in the series finale.

*Matchup To Watch

Nick Markakis will be one to watch this week – against Jordan Zimmermann, Markakis is 7 for 21 with a homer, he’s 9 for 29 with a homer and 8 RBI against Doug Fister, and 5 for 16 (.313) against Max Scherzer. Overall against the Nationals this year Markakis is hitting .351 in 37 at-bats…but he hasn’t driven in a run.

On the Nationals side, Anthony Rendon is 4 for 11 against Shelby Miller, and when the Nationals faced Matt Wisler last week every starter had a hit against him, including an Ian Desmond home run.

*Probables
Tuesday, 7:10pm: Jordan Zimmermann (5-5, 3.42 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller (5-3, 1.94 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:10pm: Doug Fister (3-3, 4.15 ERA) vs. Matt Wisler (1-1, 3.75 ERA)

Thursday, 7:10pm: Max Scherzer (9-5, 1.79 ERA) vs. Manny Banuelos (Major League Debut)

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