Filtering by Tag: Series Preview

Series Preview: Nats at Cubs

 Editors Note: As of this afternoon, David DeJesus will be switching locker rooms, as the Nats traded a player to be named later for him while releasing Roger Bernadina. I've deleted any references to him as a Cub, but he is not included in the tables as trying to fix those manually on short notice is, frankly, a pain in the ass. -TL

The NL Central is the best division in baseball and anyone who disagrees is flat out wrong. The Cubs could blame their 53-70 record on their division, but they are plain bad. Since they shipped Alfonzo Soriano to New York he has flourished and they have gotten worst. In their last ten games they are 3-7 with little signs of life. They are sitting last in the division, which is saying a lot because Milwaukee’s rotation is pretty much filled with fans they asked to help out, oh, and Tom Gorzelanny.

The Nationals are 6-4 over their last ten games and sitting three games under .500. They are 9.5 games behind Cincinnati for the second Wild Card spot and would have to hope that both the Reds and Diamondback start to tank, while their offense becomes baseball murderers, but it is not impossible. It appears that Jayson Werth is taking it upon himself to try and push the Nationals to the playoffs. He is hitting .334 and having more multi-hit games than I can count. He had a spectacular July and is aiming to have an even better August, which is almost impossible.     

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to my brother Ross and my Dad because they will be at the game on Thursday. My Dad is a diehard Cubs fan and plans to cheer against the Nationals while crushing some Old Style beer at Wrigley, which tastes just a little bit worse than warm PBR. 

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Series #34 Preview: Nats at Tigers

Nationals fansare still waiting on the spark that will lead to the streak that will close the gap between the Braves and them in the NL East. A lot of good things have happened as of late, the back of the rotation is looking good with Haren finding his command and Taylor Jordan mastering the slider and with signs that the offense is starting to show some life.

In a rare two game series, the Nationals (52-54) head to Comerica Park to take on the Detroit Tigers (59-45). The two teams met earlier this year for another abbreviated series at the beginning of May, where Dan Haren and Jordan Zimmermann pitched their way to two Nats wins. This go around Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will have a chance to beat up on the Tigers.

Since the two teams last met the Nationals bullpen looks drastically different and Scott Hairston is a member of the bench. The Nats have also gotten healthier with the return of Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos back in the lineup after lengthy disabled list stays. Also, the Tiger’s ace, Justin Verlander, does not look as sharp as he has in the past and has lost some velocity on his fastball.

Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos seem to be hitting their stride offensively, with Werth batting north of .300 and Zimmerman having four multi-hit games in his last five starts. Ramos might not be the defense juggernaut that Kurt Suzuki is, but the pop that he has helped the Nats out since returning to the lineup on July 4.


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Series #29 Preview: Nats at Phillies

The WashingtonNationals (46-42) have one four games in a row and just completed a sweep of the San Diego Padres. The Nats have not swept a team since the Great Depression (alright it was actually the White Sox in April, but it has seem like since the Great Depression) and the offense is starting to roll. Everyone was thinking that Bryce Harper was going to be the spark to ignite the offense, but it appears that it might be Wilson Ramos because since his return on America’s birthday the Nats have not lost. Here is hoping that he can feign off injury for the rest of the season.

For their second to last series before the All-Star Game, the Nats will take on the Phillies (43-46), who are trying to stay competitive with the Braves and Nationals in the NL East. The Phillies did the Nats a favor and took two out of three from the Braves over the weekend and now the Nats are only four games back with seven games to play before the break. Hopefully, the Marlins and Reds can batter the Braves and the Nationals can pick up even more ground in the standings.

The season series is currently tied between the two teams at three games apiece. The Phillies are 5-5 in their last ten games with their last game being a win against the Braves. The Nats are 7-3 in the same span and their bats are starting to heat up with their last loss coming on July 3.

On the injury front, Ross Detwiler was placed on the disabled list with back tightness and will miss his next start. Dan Haren will be taking his place in the rotation and Taylor Jordan will continue to stay with the big club until Detwiler comes back. Danny Espinosa is still trying to get back in the groove in AAA Syracuse, but since his strikeout rate is worse down there than it was in Washington, it is unlikely that he will unseat Anthony Rendon anytime soon.

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Series #26 Preview: Nats vs. Rockies

After the Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 5-1 on the back of a strong pitching performance by Jordan Zimmermann and some actual, honest to goodness, hits, they look to continue their success against the Rockies this year.  

The Nationals will still be without the services of Bryce Harper this weekend, although he is finally resuming baseball activities. He won't be back immediately, but the day is approaching where Bryce Harper will slot back into the middle of the order and in left field. The Nats will try this weekend to close the gap with the division leading Braves a bit, so it's easier to catch-up once Harper returns.  

Anyways, the Rockies are in town to start a long stretch of home games for the Nationals. With the win Thursday night in game one of the series the Nationals once again moved to .500 on the season. Winning the series then would put the Nationals in a much better outlook than they were just days ago before the final game of the Phillies series. So let's look at who they have to beat to do that.

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Series #25 Preview: Nats at Phillies

Call me crazy,but the Nats (34-34) are showing signs of life and a little consistency. Yes, they are 3-3 at this point in their road trip, but with the exception of the awful game pitched by Dan Haren against Colorado, they could as easily been 5-1 if a few things would have gone their way. They are currently sitting 6.5 games behind the Braves for the lead in the NL East and are back to .500 baseball, but the games feel different. They are hitting the ball. They are not scoring a while lot, but they are hitting.

What is the difference? Anthony Rendon. The guy is hitting .361 in 17 games this season. I know he has only had 68 plate appearances in his career, but he’s yet to look overmatched.  Since being called back up for the second time this season, he has hit safely in every game. He has the longest current hitting streak on the team sitting at ten games. His last two games have both been three hit games, so he does not seem to be slowing down. This only makes the decision to sit Rendon for Friday’s opening game against the Indians even more baffling.

The Nationals head to Citizens Bank Park for a three game series with the Phillies (33-37). The Phillies won two out of three against the Nats in their only other series this season and the teams split the season series last year at nine a piece. The Phillies’ Michael Young is two RBI shy of hitting the 1,000 career RBI mark. There are only 18 active players that have recorded 1,000 or more RBI, so let’s hope he has to wait until the Phillies next series to join that club.

In injury news, it looks like Bryce Harper will start baseball activities after a week of rest to reduce the effects of his bursitis and could start a rehab game by either the end of the week or early next week. Wilson Ramos aggravated his hamstring, but it is reported that it will only affect his rehab calendar by a day or two and he might be able to rejoin the team by then end of the month. Danny Espinosa has been playing in rehab games in Syracuse for the AAA Chiefs, but neither Davey or Rizzo has said when he will rejoin the big league club.

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Series #22 Preview: Nats at Rockies

On the roadagain… Over the next nine days the Nationals have three road series against the Rockies, Indians and Phillies before coming back to DC on June 20th. The Rockies are 34-30 and are tied for second place in their division with San Francisco, two games behind Arizona. Cleveland is having an up and down year, but they are sitting in a similar situation as the Nats where they are not trying to lose any more ground to the division leading Tigers. The Phillies are old and decrepit, but they are hanging around in the NL East, so the Nationals need to put them down and hope the Braves lose a couple.

In the first series of the road trip the Nats take on the Rockies at Coors Field (or the launching pad as some refer to it as), where they have put up respectable numbers in the past. More importantly, almost every offense, no matter how bad they are, hits the ball well in Colorado due to the thinner air. So, hopefully the momentum from the double header victory on Sunday will carry over. Over the last 10 games, Colorado is 6-4 and over that same time-frame the Nationals are 4-6. 

Another good thing to look forward to is how well Ryan Zimmerman has done against the three pitchers he will be facing in this series. He has hit at least one home run against all of them and is sporting very high batting averages against them. He has not been hitting as well as he was in the month of May, but he came through several times on Sunday and with Werth back he has more protection in the lineup.

Lastly, Anthony Rendon is making sure he doesn't see Syracuse again. Personally, I have been a huge advocate for Lombardozzi starting at second base since before the season started and have been having trouble shaking my allegiance to him, but man, Rendon has been playing well. In 12 games in the big leagues this season he has a .293 BA (.773 OPS). A third of all his hits are doubles, which is ridiculous and he has shown some flashes at second, a position he has not consistently played since little league. Hopefully, he will be the spark that gets this offense going.


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Series #21 Preview: Nats vs Twins

Continuing with the up and downnature of their season thus far, the Nationals split a two game series with the Mets; winning the first in the 9th and losing the second by nine. Roster moves finally came with the DFA of Zack Duke and Henry Rodriguez and the placing of Danny Espinosa on the DL. In their place, Jayson Werth returned to the active roster and relievers Ian Krol and Fernando Abad were recalled. In further injury news Stephen Strasburg was placed on the 15-day DL for his lat strain. The move was retroactive to June 1 so Stras is eligible to return on June 16. Rainouts and the likely return of Ross Detwiler next week should rid the Nats of needing to call up another starter to fill out the rotation. A rainout on both Thursday and Friday should leave the Nats well rested and ready to get their record to over .500 and begin the process of whittling down the Braves lead in the NL East.

The Twins come to Washington sporting a 26-31 record, having won seven of their last ten but most recently dropped two straight to the Royals. Their offense ranks 22nd in OPS at .700, and they have a bunch of hitters who as a team walk nearly 9% of the time, good for 6th in MLB but they also strike out 20.8% of the time which is in the bottom 1/3 of MLB. Offense is where the positives tail off for the Twins, their starting rotation has the third worst ERA (5.27) and sixth worst FIP (4.84) while having the worst K/9 in baseball at 4.33. The Twins also rank last in defense, having posted a -18.5 UZR as a team through the first 1/3 of the season.

On to the matchups... 

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Series #20 Preview: Nationals vs. Mets

The Nationals were hoping togain a little ground against the Braves in the NL East after their series last weekend in Atlanta, but that was not the case. The Braves took two out of three and now hold a seven game lead in the division. The Nats are now only holding on two second place in the division by a half a game over the Phillies, who collectively almost qualify for Social Security because of their advanced age. 

What could right this horrible situation, you ask. Well, having a team come to town that was just swept by the Marlins, who until then had not swept a team all season. Enter, the New York Mets (22-32), who come to town for a three game series with the Nationals (28-29) starting on Tuesday. 

The Mats played inspired baseball when they took on the New York Yankees in the Subway Series last week and swept all four games. However, apparently they ran out of inspiration when they ran into the Marlins and got swept themselves. The Mets rotation this season has been below average as a whole, but they one gem, Matt Harvey has been killing it. The good thing is the Nationals will not be seeing Harvey because his spot in the rotation will not overlap with the series (THANK GOD!). 

In other good news, barring a disaster, Jayson Werth should be in the starting lineup on Tuesday and for as long as he can stay uninjured. Werth finished his rehab assignment with the Potomac Nationals where he practically hit every baseball thrown at him while he was in the batter’s box. He did so well in fact that Manager Davey Johnson characterized his performance as “frisky” during a press conference after the Braves series on Sunday.   

Injuries are still a problem for the Nationals. Bryce Harper was placed on the 15 day disabled list and cannot come off it until June 11. There has still been no definitive word on when Ross Detwiler will come back to the rotation and Wilson Ramos is expected to miss at least another couple weeks.

To add insult to injury (pun somewhat intended), the Nats ace, Stephen Strasburg was pulled from Friday’s game after only two innings with stiffness in his back. Tests showed that he has a Grade 1 lateral muscle strain. The organization is optimistic that he might make his next start to close out the Mets series, but other medical professionals have asserted that an injury like this usually takes 3-6 weeks to properly heal. At this point, the Nationals have not placed Stras on the disabled list, so fans will have to wait and see what happens as his start gets closer. Apparently, everything hinges on whether he is able to throw his bullpen session on Wednesday.

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Series #19 Preview: Nats at Braves

The Nationals visit Turner Field to face off in a three game series for the second time this season to take on the Atlanta Braves. The Braves (32-21) have won seven out of their last 10 and are leading the Nats in the NL East race by 5.5 games. The Nationals (27-27) are coming off a series with the Orioles, where they dropped three of four games.

On a plus note, the Nats offense is starting to wake up, especially in the home run category. Ryan Zimmerman in particular is seeing the ball great and making opposing pitchers pay for it.  After the first month of the season Zim was only batting .226, with an OPS of .670, not what fans expect from him. However, since then he has raised his average more than sixty points to .290. He played in twenty five games in May and got at least one hit in all but five of those games. His most impressive performance came against the Orioles on Wednesday when he hit three homers. He was on the cusp to break .300, but he went 0-4 in the series finale against the Orioles. Even more encouraging, probably, is the fact that his throwing errors have almost vanished, which makes fans breath a lot more easily when a ball get sent to the hot corner.

The Nationals are still battling injuries. Jayson Werth is expected to miss the entire road trip to Atlanta, Ross Detwiler will miss his start in favor of Nate Karns and Manager Davey Johnson is keeping a close eye on Danny Espinosa ailing wrist. The good news is that Bryce Harper is expected to return for the entire series against the Braves. His bursitis has healed enough that he will take his place in the lineup.

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Series #17 Preview: Nats vs Orioles

After a much neededoff day Thursday, the Nats took two of three from the Phillies. The offense looked better, averaging 4.66 runs per game over the weekend. Unfortunately the weekend came with several injuries. First came the news that Danny Espinosa had been playing with a fractured wrist since he was hit by Paul Maholm in early May. He is not yet headed to the DL, and while he was downright abysmal with a bat his defense will be missed. Next came Bryce Harper who aggravated a previous knee injury and will be sitting for at least the two games at Nats Park vs the Orioles. Ross Detwiler was actually cleared to start this Tuesday’s game before experiencing a setback that formally landed him on the DL. Detwiler is back-dated to May 16 so he is eligible to return as soon as June 2.

The Orioles come into the series at 27-23, 3rd in the AL East. The offense has been very good, leading Major League Baseball in OPS (.790), tied for 1st in WAR (10.4) and 3rd in wOBA (.340). The only true deficiency of the offense is they don’t walk incredibly often, posting a 7.5% BB% which ranks 22nd in MLB. The pitching on the other hand has not been great. Both the rotation and the bullpen independently rank 26th in FIP. So far this season the O’s have played better away from Camden Yards and in their last ten games are 4-6.

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