After a short road trip to Cincinnati, the Washington Nationals return to Nationals Park to play host to the Chicago White Sox in their first interleague series of the season.
This American versus National League match-up comes much earlier than in years past, as a result of the new schedule that spreads interleague games throughout the entire season instead of isolating them to May and June. The Nats will not face another American League team until May 7, when they play the White Sox’s division rivals, the Detroit Tigers, at Nationals Park.
Last year, the White Sox finished three games behind the Tigers to come in second in the AL Central.
The Nats have played only six games against Chicago in their nine-year history, and have won just two of them, none in 2010 and two in 2011.
The White Sox’s designated hitter, Adam Dunn, will play in D.C. for the first time since 2011, which was his first year with Chicago after leaving the Nationals for a four-year, $56 million deal.
Dunn posted great numbers during his two years in Washington, hitting .264/.378/.533 with 76 home runs and 208 RBIs through 2009 and 2010. After suffering a terrible season-long slump in 2011 when he hit just .159/.292/.277 with 11 home runs, he bounced back last season to hit 41 home runs and 96 RBI. Though his slash line remained low (.204/.333/.468), Dunn effectively returned to career-standard form in 2012, showing he is back on track to have a strong season in 2013.
Because Chicago cannot use a designated hitter in the series and Dunn is left handed, he will not start the first game against lefty Gio Gonzalez. However, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he would probably give Dunn at least one start in left field during the series. Dunn played 84 games in the Nationals outfield in 2009, and he said it would be comfortable and “kind of fun” to play in the outfield there again because he feels like it is his home park.
Back At It
First baseman Adam LaRoche will return to the Nationals’ lineup on Tuesday, after missing the last two games with back tightness. With the off-day Monday, LaRoche had three days to rest his back, and said the time off plus muscle relaxers helped him feel better today.
As always, having the Silver Slugger winner in the game will benefit the Nationals, and especially so against the White Sox, whom he has been successful against in the past. In 27 career plate appearances against White Sox pitchers, LaRoche has a slash line of .286/.444/.762 with six walks, six strikeouts and three home runs.
In The Zone
Kurt Suzuki (C) 3-for-4, 3 RBI, 1 HR (vs. Reds 4/7)
Alex Rios (RF) .364 AVG, .440 OBP, .773 SLG, 3 HR, 1 SB, 22 AB
Alexei Ramirez (SS) .333 AVG, .364 OBP, .571 SLG, 1 HR, 2 SB, 21 AB
Jeff Keppinger (3B) .048 AVG, .048 OBP, 2 SO, 1 H, 21 AB
Alejandro De Aza (CF) .167 AVG, .160 OBP, 6 SO, 4 H, 24 AB
4/9, Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 S, 6 IP) vs. Jake Peavy (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6 SO, 6 IP)
4/10, Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 1 SO, 6 IP) vs. Gavin Floyd (0-1, 3.00 ERA, 5 SO, 6 IP)
4/11, Dan Haren (0-1, 13.50 ERA, 5 SO, 4 IP) vs. Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0 ERA, 3 SO, 5.2 IP)