December 15, 2017

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)

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