The Washington Nationals (8-8) will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers (7-8) to Nationals Park to finish up the final leg of a 10 game home stand. The Nationals look to improve upon their .500 record before going on a six game road trip after taking two-of-four from Colorado and two-of-three from Milwaukee.
The Nationals have been extremely consistent with the bat in the first sixteen games of the season but need to find the same consistency with their pitching staff if they hope to be successful against the Los Angeles Dodgers who lead the majors in batting average. This inconsistency is evident when you consider the Nationals have scored at least four or more runs in 13 out of 16 games this season yet only have eight wins. With poor starting pitching the Nationals have allowed over 10 run in a game four times, going 0-4 in those games.
The Dodgers, one of the leagues best hitting teams, will look to take advantage of Washington's inability to get consistent efforts from their starters. Behind the likes of Manny Ramirez (.415/.500/.659), Matt Kemp (.333/.405/.730), and Russell Martin (.333/.446/.444), the Dodgers look to bash their way through this series and jump start a season that is filled with high expectations. To do it though, they too will need help from their starting pitching, and must find an answer for a Nationals line-up that have found a way to score runs all season long.
Update: Manny Ramirez will likely miss the series vs. the Nationals with a calf injury.
DODGERS LAST SERIES
The Dodgers are coming off a disappointing three game series in Cincinnati where they dropped two games to the Reds. Los Angeles fell behind early in the first game after allowing a six run second inning to the 6-8 Reds. Despite a four run eighth, the Dodgers couldn't make up the difference and lost 9-11. The next game saw the Dodgers bats explode for 14 runs and 18 hits. The Dodgers scored a run in every inning but the fourth in the 14-6 win. Los Angeles dropped the finale 5-8 after the bullpen surrendered a 3-2 lead in the sixth and seventh innings.
Rafael Furcal: 6/15, 3 SB, 5 R, 6 RBI
Andre Ethier: 5/13, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Russell Martin: 6/14, 4 R
Chad Billingsley: 3 IP, 4 ER, 2 K
Charlie Haeger (0-1 7.20 ERA) vs. Luis Atilano (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. Craig Stammen (1-0, 8.16 ERA)
Chad Billingsley (1-0, 7.07 ERA) vs. Scott Olsen (0-1, 11.74)
MOMMA THERE GOES THAT MAN
Mr. Age-gate Rafael Furcal is on fire. The "32-year-old" has hits in 12 of the Dodgers 15 games this season, including seven multi-hit games. The result? Furcal is batting .344/.417/.453 on the season after a very disappointing 2009. What makes it even more of a headache for the Nationals is he's hitting that well in front of one of the likes of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, James Loney and Russell Martin. It could be a very very long weekend.
The scary part is that while Furcal is batting .344 his BABIP (.379) isn't THAT high above his carer average (.316). A high BABIP tends to indicate a batter is getting lucky, but what has really helped the Dodgers shortstop is his reduced strikeout rate (9.4% down from 14.5%) and his increased line drive percentage (26.3% up from 19.0%).
ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE YOU TO:
The Dodgers may have one of the best line-ups in the National League, but few know the batters names. While everyone knows Manny Ramirez, let me help you get familiar with:
Andre Ethier: The number three hitter in the Dodgers line up, Ethier is batting .388/.455/.714 through the teams first 15 games. At the age of 28, the corner-outfielder is entering his fifth full season in the majors, and coming off a career best 31 homers and 106 RBI in 2009. In his career Ethier has averaged .293/.365/.495 and has posted a career WAR of 10.7.
Matt Kemp: You know you've arrived when you're dating Rihanna. The 25-year-old Kemp is entering his fourth full MLB season after having a breakout 2009 where he hit .297/.352/.490 with 26 homers, 101 RBI, and 34 stolen bases. Combining extreme strength and speed, Kemp will likely threaten the 30-30 plateau this season while hitting for a good average and still getting on base. With seven homers and 20 RBI on the season he currently leads the National League in both categories.
Rusell Martin: Martin followed a stellar start of his career by gaining massive amounts of weight in 2009 and falling off the map. Martin put an emphasis on getting fit this offseason and the bat is showing a lot of improvement. The catcher has batted .333/.446/.444 to start the season and the Dodgers are hoping he can return to being one of the top five catchers in the league.