The Washington Nationals’ (71-44) match ups against teams who are contenders for their division's pennant are taking on heightened significance, as the Nats playoff push becomes more of a solidified effort. These match ups are becoming a potential preview of post-season face-offs, when the games really count. With the San Francisco Giants (63-52) pushing for first place in the NL West, this series could be one such preview.
Looking to protect their one game lead over National League West rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants will have to fight hard to take wins from the Nationals, the team with MLB’s best record by two full games. The Nats are smoking hot right now, despite the fact that their eight-game winning streak was just snapped in their series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Still, they have only lost three of 13 games in August, and winning isn’t going to come easily for the Giants.
The Nats swept the Giants in the beginning of July, and if they can put in a similar winning performance during this series, that will speak volumes about their ability to go head to head with winning teams.
Two teams with two of the best starting rotations in baseball will be facing off in this series, and they will be rolling out the big guns, with all three of the Nationals' aces facing off against two of the Giants' best starters.
Ryan Vogelsong, who will take the mound in the series opener, is the only National League starting pitcher who has a lower ERA than Jordan Zimmermann, and minus Tim Lincecum, all the scheduled starters for this series have ERAs in the top 15 of the NL. Even Lincecum has had an impressive 2.72 ERA after the All-Star Break.
All three of San Francisco's starters put in solid work in their last outings. Vogelsong just pitched a gem of a start, going seven innings in a three hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals. Although Madison Bumgarner wasn't awarded with a win like Vogelson, he followed suit with a strong six-inning outing, allowing only three earned runs on three hits with seven strikeouts. Lincecum also only allowed three runs through seven innings in a loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Despite the Giants' prowess on the mound, the Nationals have fared well against them offensively. They will face Vogelsong for the first time this season, but they are batting .310 off Bumgarner on the year and .417 off Lincecum. The Nats will hope to continue their strong offensive record against the Giants this series, as they bring their hot bats to the Golden State.
The Giants just broke out of a short team-wide offensive slump, despite having one of the better offenses in the league. Though they aren't sluggers, their slash line of .263/.323/.387 ranks 10th, 13th and 23rd, respectively. We will have to see if the slump continues or if they can match the Nationals heavy hitting ways of late.
It’s no secret that the Nationals have been doing well offensively recently and their slash line of .256/.319/.414 continues to keep pace with top offensive teams. Current Nats are batting a collective .272 in August, and 11 of them have August average upwards of .260. This offensive push has been huge in helping the Nationals score 64 runs so far this month (averaging 4.92 per game), which has allowed them to win so much.
This series has all the makings of a fun one to watch (which is unfortunate for those of us who like sleep). From dominant pitching to hot hitters and the overall excitement of postseason promise, these three games are enough to make you want to forgo sleep and tune in to the action.
- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is expected to return to the lineup on Monday after being on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain since July 28. A crucial piece of the Giants' offense, Sandoval was batting .299 with eight home runs and 19 doubles before his injury.
- Until last night when he blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to power the Giants to a victory over the Rockies, Hunter Pence hadn't been performing very well as a Giant since his trade from the Philadelphia Phillies. Pence is currently batting .258 on the year, .154 in a Giants uniform, and .200 off active Nationals pitchers.
Melky Cabrera (LF) .349 AVG, .431 OBP, .605 SLG, 1 HR, 8 RBI (last 11 games)
Buster Posey (C) .459 AVG, .571 OBP, .946 SLG, 6 HR, 15 RBI (last 11 games)
Sergio Romo (RP) 0.00 ERA, .176 BAA, 7 SO, 3 H, 4.2 IP (last six games)
Gregor Blanco (LF) .000 AVG, .150 OBP, .000 SLG, 5 SO (last 11 games)
Hunter Pence (RF) .154 AVG, .167 OBP, .288 SLG, 14 SO (12 games since trade)
Brad Penny (RP) 5.87 ERA, .344 BAA, 1 SO, 11 H, 7.2 IP (last six games)
Gio Gonzalez (14-6, 3.32 ERA) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (10-5, 2.27 ERA)
Jordan Zimmermann (9-6, 2.35 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (12-7, 3.08 ERA)
Stephen Strasburg (13-5, 2.90 ERA) vs. Tim Lincecum (6-12, 5.35 ERA)