Series #3 Preview: Nats vs White Sox
With expectations incrediblyhigh even before Opening Day, and with the Nats utter domination of the Marlins in the first series of the season most fans expected the Nats to return from their first road trip flying high. However, the Nats return to DC after a disappointing series against the Reds where they won only one game, saw Stephen Strasburg struggle and Rafael Soriano blew his first save.
Have no fear Nats fans, the White Sox are coming to town and even though they have same record (4-2) as the Nats, they should prove to be a much, much easier test than the Reds. The Nationals are looking to go 4-0 at home to open the season for the first time since 2003, when they were the Expos playing in Montreal. Plus, if things get dicey fans can take comfort in the fact that Tuesday’s game promotion is Two for Tuesday (fans get two hot dogs for the price of one and two sodas for the price of one) and Wednesday is $5 Beer + Peanuts Night. So, more than likely you can come down to Nats Park, watch the home team win and as a bonus not pay as much for concessions, which is a pretty good deal. Anyway, on to the baseball...
Fans learned a lot during the first week of the season, some bad (Dan Haren), and some good (Harper, Span and Ramos). Probably one of the most satisfying, yet underappreciated statistic from the first two series to open the season is Denard Span’s .444 OBP. With Michael Morse tearing it up in Seattle some fans were concerned that GM Mike Rizzo might have made a mistake in trading him, but the Nats needed a leadoff hitter that could get on base and that is what he has been doing. Span presence in the outfield has also allowed Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth to play the specific hitter’s tendencies rather than having to pick up the slack for the slower than average Michael Morse in left field.
Game 7: Tuesday, April 9, Nationals Park 7:05pm, Jake Peavy (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
The White Sox will send Jake Peavy, to the mound for the first game of the series to face off against Gio.
After a severe shoulder injury threatened his career in 2011, the former San Diego Padre’s Ace rebounded to throw 219 innings in 2012 for Chicago with a 3.37 ERA (3.73 FIP), 7.97 K/9 and a 3.96 K:BB. Peavy has been decent against the Nats in the past, going 4-4 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.174 WHIP and a SO/BB of 4.24 in 11 career games. Peavy has held current Nats to a .656 OPS over 135 PA’s. The two Nats who have fared the best are against Peavy are Adam LaRoche and Denard Span. LaRoche, who has treated Peavy like a whipped dog, is sporting a 1.409 OPS and .364 BA over the course of 14 PA’s. Span, who has not been as successful as LaRoche, has faced Peavy 17 times accruing a .294 BA, which included 4 doubles.
Current Nationals vs. Jake Peavy:
Gio had a solid outing on a very cold night against the Marlins last week. It was so cold and he was blowing into his hand so much that during his post-game interview with MASN he remarked that, “It was like he was making love to his hand.” Well, whatever works? Since Gio Gonzalez, a former White Sox prospect, debuted in 2008 he has not had much luck against the White Sox. He has accumulated a 0-4 record and pitched 27.2 innings. In all fairness, Gonzalez’s 5.86 ERA is somewhat misleading. It is hurt by the 18.90 ERA he posted against Chicago in 2008. He has been much better in his last two seasons where he posted a 2.57 ERA in 2010 and 3.38 ERA in 2011. He did not face the White Sox last season. Gonzalez has not faced that many current White Sox and the ones he has faced have not fared very well against him. Cumulatively, the current White Sox roster has posted a .500 OPS and a .163 BA. Paul Konerko, more than any other White Sox, is probably hoping that Gio comes down with a case of the flu or falls down a flight of stairs because Konerko is only batting .083 in 15 PA’s.
Current White Sox vs. Gio Gonzalez:
Game 8: Wednesday, April 10, Nationals Park 7:05pm, Gavin Floyd (0-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
The White Sox will send Gavin Floyd, to the mound for the first game of the series to face off against Zimm. Floyd is a journeyman pitcher that has been in the league for a decade who has barely more wins than losses (69-66). He tends to start the season strong and fade in the second half, so the Nats probably wish they were facing him in August as opposed to April. He has only faced Washington once since 2006. Floyd has had moderate success against the Nats in the past, going 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.259 WHIP and a SO/BB of 2.10 in 5 career games. The Nats roster has a .343 BA and .852 OPS over 78 PA’s against Floyd. Much like Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd probably hopes both Denard span and Adam LaRoche get lost on their way two the ballpark and cannot play game two of the series because he has not fared well against the two. Span has the most plate appearances against Floyd, with 38 PA’s, where he has built a .486 BA and 1.100 OPS. LaRoche has faced Floyd 11 times and is slugging .750 with one home run.
Current Nationals vs. Gavin Floyd:
Jordan Zimmermann will be the Nats starter for game two of the series. Zimmermann got himself into a couple jams during the final game of the Marlins series last week, but only gave up one run. He also battled cold temperatures, like Gio, for his previous start, but will be facing much more favorable conditions for his second start of the season.
Zimmermann is still a young pitcher, so he does not have the body of work that season veteran have and because of this he has only face the White Sox once. In his only start against the White Sox in 2011, Zimmermann went 7.0 innings, giving up six hits, zero runs, while striking out four. He did not get the decision, so his current record against the White Sox stands at 0-0. Zimmermann has faced seven members of the current White Sox roster, where they have only managed 24 PA’s against him. The White Sox roster has posted a .417 OPS and a .208 BA. Alex Rios has faced Zimmermann the most, stepping up to bat against him six times, where he has two hits, .333 BA and a .667 OPS.
Current White Sox vs. Jordan Zimmermann:
Game 9: Thursday, April 11, Nationals Park 7:05pm, Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Dan Haren (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
Dylan Axelrod has only been in the majors since 2011 and has amassed 75.1 IP since his debut. Last season he worked as a starting pitcher for seven games, while also appearing in seven more games out of the bullpen. Axelrod has never faced the Nats and over the course of his limited career has any member of the National’s current roster stepped in the batter’s box while he has been on the mound.
One of the more prominent storylines in the offseason was whether the Washington Nationals signed the “work horse” Dan Haren, who ate up inning and befuddled batters over the course of his first nine seasons in the big leagues or the “inconsistent” Dan Haren that appeared in 2012 where his ERA rose to 4.33 and he pitched less than 200 innings for the first time since 2004. In his first start he looked like the latter, but hopefully it is an aberration and not a preview of what Nats fans will see all season. Last Friday, against the Reds he only lasted four innings, giving up six runs off of nine hits, four of which here home runs.
It was said at the time and I’ll repeat it here: Haren has given up 4 HR’s in a game four other times in his career. 3 of those 4 times his year end fWAR was no less than 4.1. There are a few things we need to remember. First, there have been plenty of other starters who had a bad first outing for the Nats and went on to have a successful season (see Gonzalez, Gio). Secondly, Haren was signed to be the 5th starter and all the Nats are looking for him to be in the Dan Haren of 2012, anything more is icing. To give you an idea, the average 5th starter in 2012 was a 0.4 fWAR player while Haren was a 1.8 fWAR player, which would have made him the fourth-best 5th Starter in baseball, behind Maholm, Wei-Yin Chen and Anibal Sanchez.
Sorry for the rant.
Haren may have had a rough outing against the Reds last week, but he has always been successful against the team from the Southside of Chicago. In six appearances he has collected a 2-1 record over the course of 35.2 IP. During those six appearances the White Sox have struck out 30 times and only hit 3 home runs. The current White Sox lineup has posted a .272 BA and .720 OPS against Haren. Specifically, Paul Konerko and Jeff Keppinger have caused trouble for Haren in the past. Konerko is batting .368 and posting a .895 OPS over the course of 19 PA’s against Haren. Keppinger has stepped in 18 times against Haren and has a .500 BA, 1.368 OPS and hit 3RBIs.
Current White Sox vs. Dan Haren:
|Alejandro De Aza||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.167||.167||.167||.333|
On the injury front, Adam LaRoche looks to be feeling better and will be in the lineup Tuesday night. On the MiLB side Matt Skole was placed on the MiLB DL with reported microfracture in his left wrist.
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