September 16, 2019

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

If it’s possible for a team to be as charmed as it has been snakebitten, this year’s Washington Nationals have found that balance.

Just when it seemed like things couldn’t go any worse for the Nationals in June — Bryce Harper was hurt Thursday night, the same week Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the disabled list — the Nationals bounced back…with authority: a three-game sweep of the hottest team in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates; A no-hitter by Max Scherzer; Harper returning to homer in two straight games on Saturday and Sunday.

The end result: the Nationals (37-33) reclaimed first place in the National League East, moving a game and a half in front of the struggling Mets.

Next, the Atlanta Braves (35-35) come to Washington for three games. The Braves have played well enough recently to get back to .500 and move to within two games of the Nationals.

The Last Time…

When the Nationals and Braves last met in May, the Nationals swept a three-game series in Washington. It was the series before that, though, where the Nationals turned their season around (for the first time) by taking two out of three from the Braves in late April, including the dramatic come-from-behind 13-12 win. The Nationals are 5-1 against Atlanta so far this season.

In The Other Dugout

Exciting young pitchers for the Atlanta Braves…sound familiar? The Nationals will be facing Shelby Miller as a member of the Braves for the first time in this series — they missed him in the rotation the first two times these two teams met. Miller came over from the Cardinals in the Jason Heyward deal this off-season and the 24-year-old has been everything the Braves could have hoped for: In 14 starts he’s posted a 1.99 ERA and had two shutouts. The Nationals will also face Matt Wisler on Thursday. All the 22-year-old did in his major league debut last week was go eight innings, giving up just one run, as the Braves came from behind to get him a win.

Matchup To Watch

These two teams are very familiar with one another, and there are a few players whose numbers reflect a comfort level: Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon (due to make his first appearance against the Braves this season) will face Alex Wood Tuesday night. Harper is 7 for 14 (.500) against Wood, and Rendon is 8 for 13 (.615) with a home run against him. For the Braves, Nick Markakis is 9 for 26 (.346) with a homer against Thursday night’s Nationals starter, Doug Fister. And if Freddie Freeman is healthy enough to play this series (he missed the series against the Mets, and had another day to rest his wrist with the day off on Monday), he is 9 for 24 (.375) against Jordan Zimmermann and 12 for 28 (.429) with three home runs against Stephen Strasburg.

Probables

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Alex Wood (4-4, 3.40 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 6.55 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:05pm: Shelby Miller (5-3, 1.99 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (5-5, 3.75 ERA)

Thursday, 4:05pm: Matt Wisler (1-0, 1.13 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (2-3, 4.80 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

June has not been kind to the Washington Nationals. After dropping three of their four games against the Rays, the Nationals (34-33) are now 6-11 this month. To make matters worse, Bryce Harper’s status is uncertain after he suffered a hamstring strain Thursday night – he’ll be re-evaluated before Friday night’s game.

If there is any series in which the Nationals can’t afford to be even more short-handed offensively than they already are (see: Zimmerman, Ryan and Werth, Jayson), it might be this one. The Nationals begin a three-game weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (39-27), who are rolling. The Pirates come to Washington on an eight-game winning streak, having swept the White Sox in four games and the Phillies in three before that. The Pirates are still four games behind the Cardinals in the Central, but they’ve moved three games in front of the Cubs to take over second place in that division. In the National League East, meanwhile, the Nationals are a game-and-a-half behind the Mets, who begin a weekend series in Atlanta after splitting their four games with Toronto.

*The Last Time…

The Pirates and Nationals last met last August, when the Nationals swept a three-game series. Last May the Pirates took three out of four in Pittsburgh. Five of the six matchups last year were one-run games.

*In The Other Dugout

The key to the Pirates’ recent success has been their starting pitching. In the midst of their eight-game winning streak the Pirates had three straight shutouts, and a stretch where they didn’t allow a run in five games out of six. The Pirates’ starting pitchers lead the majors in earned run average and the team has won 21 of its last 26 overall.

*Matchup To Watch

In a series where runs could be very hard to come by, this might prove to be important: Anthony Rendon is 7 for 16 (.438) in his career against Friday night’s Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, with 3 home runs and 9 RBI.

*Probables

Friday, 7:05pm: A.J. Burnett (6-2, 1.89 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (1-1, 3.46 ERA)

Saturday, 4:05pm: Francisco Liriano (4-5, 2.94 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (7-5, 1.93 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35pm: Charlie Morton (5-0, 1.62 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (4-4, 4.82 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

After a tough loss to Milwaukee Friday night, the Nationals (33-30) seem to have gotten back on course over the weekend. Even without Ryan Zimmerman, the Nats took two straight from the Brewers, with Max Scherzer putting the exclamation point on the weekend with his one-hit, 16-strikeout performance on Sunday.

The Nationals’ course correction might have happened just in time. They begin a tough 10-game stretch with four games against the Tampa Bay Rays (35-29), with the first two of those games taking place in Florida and the second two in Washington. After the Rays, the Pirates and the Braves will pay visits to Nationals Park, making it three straight opponents that are in the hunt.

Of course, the Nationals are in their own chase, as they’ll start the series with Tampa a half-game behind the Mets, who open up their own home-and-home series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

*The Last Time…

The Nationals and Rays haven’t played since June, 2012. The Nationals took two out of three in a series notable for the fact that a young (er?) Chris Archer made his major league debut. Archer was tagged with the loss in the second game of the series, but he pitched well, giving up just one earned run in six innings, striking out 7.

*In The Other Dugout

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the Rays this year, well, who can blame you? They lost Joe Maddon to the Cubs, they have no recognizable hitters other than Evan Longoria, and they weren’t expected to do anything this year.

Led mostly by some stellar starting pitching, though, the Rays are a team that a lot of people have started to take notice of. Tampa is tied for first in the American League East, and they come into this series with Washington on a three-game winning streak.

*Matchup To Watch

There aren’t many players in this series who have faced each other all that much professionally, but one line that stands out is Yunel Escobar’s 4 for 7 against Erasmo Ramirez, including a double. Ramirez starts against Washington Monday night.

*Probables

Monday, 7:10pm: Gio Gonzalez (4-3, 4.42 ERA) vs. Erasmo Ramirez (5-2, 4.96 ERA)

Tuesday, 7:10pm: Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.71 ERA) vs. Alex Colome (3-2, 4.21 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:00pm: Matt Andriese (1-1, 3.76 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (5-4, 3.74 ERA)

Thursday, 7:05pm: Chris Archer (7-4, 2.00 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (1-1, 3.46 ERA)

 

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

For the Nationals, who have been scuffling along these past couple of weeks, facing a team like the Brewers has to feel like good news. Of course, that’s probably what they thought when they faced the Reds at the end of May…and that’s when the recent struggles started.

But the Brewers (22-38) sit below the Reds in the National League Central standings, and behind almost every other team in every other division. Which is to say, record-wise they’re one of the worst teams in baseball. (They are a half-game in front of the Phillies.)

And even though the Nationals (31-28) have gone just 3-6 so far in June, their closest competitors in the National League East, the Mets, have not done any better. (One would argue, after being no-hit Tuesday by the Giants, the Mets have been worse, even if the record doesn’t show it.) The Nationals’ extra inning win over the Yankees Wednesday afternoon has them back in first place by a half-game, and now they get a chance to build on that momentum against a bad team in Milwaukee.

Of course, the Nats challenges, and there are many, were added to as Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day DL with plantar fasciitis. They recalled Matt den Dekker to replace him on the roster, so we’ll see a combination of Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson at first base for the foreseeable future. They also made a move to bolster the bullpen, trading for David Carpenter from the Yankees, in exchange for minor league 2B Tony Renda.

*The Last Time…

The Nationals and Brewers last met last July, when they opened their post-All Star break schedules against one another. The Nationals took two of three in the series, which included a Tanner Roark-Matt Garza matchup like the opener in this series. Garza has to hope for a better outcome: the Nationals knocked him out of the box after a third of an inning last year, scoring five times in the first inning. Washington also took two out of three when the teams met in Milwaukee earlier last year.

*In The Other Dugout

One indication of just how poorly things have gone for the Brewers this season is their record at home. The Brewers are a major league-worst 9-20 in Milwaukee, dropping seven of their last eight at home.

*Matchup To Watch

Aramis Ramirez is not having a great season so far (not many Brewers are), but he has enjoyed facing Jordan Zimmermann in the past: Ramirez is 8 for 22 with 4 doubles and a homer in his career against Saturday’s Nationals starter.

*Probables

Thursday, 8:10pm: Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.16 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (4-7, 5.09 ERA)

Friday, 8:10pm: TBA vs. Mike Fiers (2-6, 4.06 ERA)

Saturday, 4:10pm: Jordan Zimmermann (5-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (3-6, 4.05 ERA)

Sunday, 2:10pm: Max Scherzer (6-5, 2.13 ERA) vs. TBA

Washington Nationals Series Preview: New York Yankees

When the Nationals and Yankees last met less than a month ago the Yankees were sliding and the Nationals were hot…and they meet again, this time in New York, with quite the opposite being true.

The Yankees (32-25) haven’t lost since the calendar turned to June – they face Washington riding a six game winning streak after sweeps in Seattle and against the Angels last week, which helped them reclaim first place in a tight American League East.

The Nationals (30-27) have struggled in June, following the three straight losses in Cincinnati that closed out May. Washington lost three of the four games against Chicago last weekend, and the Nats are 2-5 so far this month. The Mets didn’t have a great week, going just 3-4, but it was good enough that when the Nationals open up their short two game series with the Yankees Tuesday night, the Mets will play the Giants at Citi Field across town up a half-game in the National League East.

*The Last Time…

The Nationals played the Yankees for two games in Washington in May, with the Nats taking both games, but it wasn’t easy. In the first game they fought their way back from a 6-2 deficit, with Ryan Zimmerman providing the walk-off win by tagging Andrew Miller for the first runs he’d given up all season. Game two was a more conventional, though equally tight, 3-2 Nationals win.

*In The Other Dugout

On Tuesday night Masahiro Tanaka will be making just his sixth start of the season – and second back from the disabled list – when he takes the mound against the Nationals. Tanaka made four starts in April, then missed the last week of April and all of May with a forearm strain. This came after he bypassed surgery, instead resting, an arm injury at the end of last season. Tanaka started on June 3rd in Seattle, going seven innings, giving up just one run on three hits and striking out nine while walking none.

*Matchup To Watch

Mark Teixeira has 17 home runs and 45 RBI already this season – one of those home runs came off Gio Gonzalez last month. In his career Teixeira is 6 for 18 with 2 homers against Gonzalez. For their part, the Nationals are familiar with Gonzalez’s counterpart Wednesday afternoon, Nathan Eovaldi, from his time with the Marlins. Ryan Zimmerman is 3 for 10 against Eovaldi, but two of his three hits were home runs.

*Probables

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Max Scherzer (6-4, 1.85 ERA) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 2.76 ERA)

Wednesday, 1:05pm: Gio Gonzalez (4-3, 4.57 ERA) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (5-1, 4.16 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

The last time the Cubs and Nationals met both teams were hot, and the series felt like a showcase of talent. This one has more of the feel of a showdown, with both teams struggling in the past week. Both teams begin this four game series losers of six out of ten.

The Nationals (29-24) are clinging to a half-game lead over the Mets, who dropped two out of three in San Diego and open up a series with the Diamondbacks tonight. The Cubs (27-24) are coming off a series where they won the first game of a three-game series with the Marlins and then dropped two straight in Miami. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

The next time members of the Washington Nationals find themselves in Cincinnati it’s bound to be under more festive circumstances: Great American Ballpark will be hosting the MLB All Star Game in July, and there will most likely be plenty of Nationals representation in the game.

Nationals fans hope by that time this late-May three game sweep by the Reds will be seen as a bump in the road instead of the beginning of prolonged troubled times. Because what should have been an easy series for Washington turned into an easy series for the Reds…and the Nationals (28-22) looked a lot more like the struggling April Nationals than the torrid May version of the team.

Next up is a matchup that’s hard to predict, because the Toronto Blue Jays (23-29) have been very inconsistent to start the season. Sometimes they win games 10-9 and they make scoring runs look easy, and sometimes they struggle to put runs on the board and lose 3-2. And despite the fact that they are six games under .500, they are very much in contention in a very tight American League East. The Nationals are still in first place by a half-game over the Mets, who begin a west coast swing in San Diego Monday night.

The Last Time…

The Nationals haven’t played the Blue Jays since June, 2012. For what it’s worth, the Nationals swept that three game series in Toronto. A young (or, I guess, even younger?) Bryce Harper went 7 for 13 in the three games.

In The Other Dugout

The Blue Jays might have made the deal of the off-season this year, acquiring third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A’s. Donaldson has been on fire to start the season, hitting .312 with 15 home runs and 39 RBI. One part of Donaldson’s game that should make the Nationals feel better: While Donaldson is hitting .375 with 10 homers in Toronto, he has just five homers and is hitting below .250 on the road.

Matchup To Watch

Despite the unfamiliar matchup with the Blue Jays, there are a lot of players who have faced each other in various stops over the years on these two rosters. Some of the matchups to watch out for: Wilson Ramos is 9 for 13 with a homer in his career against R.A. Dickey, Monday night’s Blue Jays starter; Jose Bautista is 9 for 17 (.529) with 4 doubles and a homer against Tuesday night’s Nationals starter, Max Scherzer; Denard Span is 12 for 33 lifetime against Mark Buehrle, with two homers.

Probables

Monday, 7:05pm: R.A. Dickey (2-5, 5.77 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (4-2, 3.26 ERA)

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Marco Estrada (1-3, 3.89 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (6-3, 1.51 ERA)

Wednesday, 7:05pm: Mark Buehrle (6-4, 4.97 ERA) vs. TBA

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds

On Thursday the Nationals enjoyed their third off-day in eleven days. On Friday in Cincinnati they begin a stretch of 23 games in 24 days.

The Nationals (28-19) begin the series a game and a half in front of the Mets in the National League East, while the Reds (19-27) sit eleven and a half games back in the NL Central.

If the just-completed Cubs-Nationals series was everything a baseball fan could want, the Nationals’ next series against Cincinnati could prove somewhat anticlimactic. The Reds have not played very good baseball so far this season, and enter the series having lost ten of their last eleven games.

The Last Time…

In 2014 the Reds and Nationals split their 6-game season series. In May the Reds took two out of three in Washington and in July the Nationals took two of three in Cincinnati.

In The Other Dugout

The Nationals will be catching one of the Reds’ bright spots in a season where bright spots have been few and far between for Cincinnati.

Anthony DeSclafani pitches for the Reds Friday night, and he has been very good so far this season. His record is only 2-4, but he has a 3.46 ERA. He threw 8 scoreless innings against the Brewers on April 20, giving up just two hits, then struggled in a couple of May starts before a seven inning outing his last time out against Cleveland where he gave up three hits and just one run.

DeSclafani pitched for the Marlins last year and then was traded to the Reds for Mat Latos. He was sent to Miami by Toronto back in 2012 as part of the blockbuster deal that brought Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays.

Matchup To Watch

The Nationals are slated to face Johnny Cueto on Sunday. Cueto has been dealing with an elbow injury and hasn’t pitched since May 19th. He reportedly threw without discomfort on Wednesday and will throw one more time before the Reds make an official call for Sunday. If he goes, Denard Span will be happy: Span is 5 for 10 in his career against Cueto.

Probables

Friday, 7:10pm: Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 6.50 ERA) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (2-4, 3.46 ERA)

Saturday, 4:10pm: Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 4.53 ERA) vs. Raisel Iglesias (1-1, 4.26 ERA)

Sunday, 1:10pm: Tanner Roark (1-2, 2.49 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (3-4, 3.03 ERA)

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

The Nationals (26-18) are living up to their pre-season hype as the best team in the National League. After taking two out of three against Philadelphia this weekend the Nationals are a half-game behind the Dodgers and two games behind the Cardinals as far as tops in the National League.

Just three and a half games behind the Cardinals, though, are the Cubs (24-19), who might have been the most talked about team coming into this season. The Cubs signed Jon Lester to add a veteran pitching presence to a young core and have hit their stride in recent weeks, showing that they’ll be an exciting team to watch for the rest of 2015…and probably for many more years to come. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

For the first time this season the Nationals open up a series in sole possession of first place. After a two-game sweep of the Yankees (and two days off in four days), the Nationals (24-17) are a half-game in front of the Mets as they welcome the Phillies (18-25) to Nationals Park.

The Phillies still have the likes of Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, likely to be surrounded by trade rumors until the trade deadline in July. But they’ve won seven out of nine in their best stretch of the season so far, and have shown no urgency to unload some of their veteran chips.

The Nationals are red hot, having won five in a row. They are also 12-6 at Nationals Park so far this year.

*The Last Time…

This is already the third series between the Nationals and Phillies this season. The teams played seven times in April, with the Phillies taking two out of three in Philadelphia and the Nationals taking three out of four in Washington.

*In The Other Dugout

The Phillies were not expected to do much in 2015. They’re not exactly blowing away expectations, but they have had a recent stretch of success. A six game winning streak helped lift them out of the division’s basement, and coupled with the Marlins’ current seven game losing streak, has the Phillies a game and a half in front of Miami. The Marlins suddenly look like a better bet to be the laughingstock of the National League East rather than the Phillies.

Because no matter how bad things get in Philadelphia this year, they are not very likely to see their general manager take over managerial duties on the field.

*Matchup To Watch

As though we needed any reason to believe Bryce Harper will stay hot: he was 2 for 5 with two home runs in the two games O’Sullivan pitched against the Nationals in April.

*Probables

Friday, 7:05pm: Sean O’Sullivan (1-2, 3.68 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (4-3, 1.75 ERA)

Saturday, 4:05pm: Cole Hamels (4-3, 3.24 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 5.98 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35pm: Aaron Harang (4-3, 1.82 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.94 ERA)

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