After being swept in the previous series to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals (10-11) will continue their home stand by facing another tough NL Central opponent, the Cincinnati Reds (13-9).
Being swept by the Cardinals dropped the Nationals’ record below .500 for the first time since 2011, when they finished the season 80-81. In order to bring their record up, the Nats will look to reverse their fortunes against the Reds in this series, after losing the last match-up 1-2 in Cincinnati.
Both Nationals’ hitting and pitching fell flat in the last series, as they were outscored 27-10, highlighted by a 15-0 blowout in which the Nats pitching staff gave up six home runs. But the Nats will try to capitalize on home-field advantage during this series in a less homer-friendly park. They are 6-6 at Nationals Park, while the Reds are just 1-5 on the road.
It’s no secret that the Nationals' offense has been struggling lately. In the last six games, they have combined to hit just .188 and have scored only 12 runs.
Manager Davey Johnson is assured that his Nats are putting in the effort; they just still have not found their rhythm.
"All of them are so motivated and driven to be so good, it's kind of hard for me to berate them or get on them because I know they're grinding," Johnson said, according to MLB.com. "They come to play. We've just to ride out the rough times. Last year we started … really slow offensively…but the pitching was our mainstay early on, kept us in ballgames. It's showing little signs of life coming around, so now we just need to wait on the offense. It's tough waiting."
With the pitching also struggling, it has been harder for the Nationals to win games this year than it was last year. Despite scoring only 74 runs and hitting .266/.304/.328 in April 2012, the pitching staff struck out 195 batters and posted a 2.33 ERA, the best in the majors, to give them a 14-8 record that month. This season, the offense has scored 76 runs and is batting .253/.299/.402, and the pitching staff has a 3.99 ERA, 10th in the majors.
Johnson is going to try to mix up the lineup to see if that helps get some offense going, while he waits for the pitching to start performing to its potential also.
The Nats’ offense is going to have to try to start succeeding again against a very successful Reds pitching staff. The Reds’ starters have had quality starts in nine of their last ten outings, and haven’t allowed more than two runs per game in the same period. This recent string of success has given them the fourth-lowest ERA (2.99) for starting pitchers in the majors.
"I'm impressed by it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said, according to MLB.com. "It means they're throwing a lot of pitches, though. I'm not impressed that we've had an equal amount of strikeouts on our side. That's unimpressive."
The Nationals pitchers, who have struck out 153 batters, ninth in the National League, will have to try to best the Reds pitchers, who have struck out an NL-best 201 hitters, though their offense has struck out an NL-worst 187 times.
Checking In With Rendon
Third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was brought up to replace Ryan Zimmerman when he went on the DL, has failed to provide an offensive spark. He hit .375 with four home runs in Spring Training, and finished the spring with a higher on base plus slugging percentage (1.287) than Bryce Harper, though he had 12 fewer at-bats. However, he has not has the same level of success in the bigs, with only two hits and five strikeouts in 15 at-bats through his first four major league games.
In The Zone
Ross Detwiler (SP). Each of his four appearances this year has been a quality start, and he continues to have the lowest ERA of any pitcher on the Nationals pitching staff.
Shin-Soo Choo (CF) .524 AVG, .688 OBP, .762 SLG, 8 BB, 1 3B (last six games)
Joey Votto (1B) .300 AVG, .389 OBP, .500 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBI (last seven games)
Brandon Phillips (2B) .214 AVG, .324 OBP, .250 SLG, 0 HR, 6 SO, (last seven games)
Zack Cozart (SS) .222 AVG, .276 OBP, .370 SLG, 1 HR, 3 SO (last six games)
4/25, Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 5.85 ERA, .240 BAA, 20 SO) vs. Bronson Arroyo (2-1, 3.54 ERA, .231 BAA, 16 SO)
4/26, Jordan Zimmermann (3-1, 2.67 ERA, .230 BAA, 15 SO) vs. Homer Bailey (1-1, 3.24 ERA, .220 BAA, 26 SO)
4/27, Dan Haren (1-3, 7.36 ERA, .376 BAA, 15 SO) vs. Mike Leake (1-0, 3.81 ERA, .276 BAA, 18 SO)
4/28, Ross Detwiler (1-1, 1.38 ERA, .258 BAA, 13 SO) vs. Tony Cingrani (1-0, 2.25 ERA, .233 BAA, 17 SO)