The Washington Nationals (21-19) are moving through the NL West from the bottom up. After dropping a series against the last-place Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nats will travel two hours south to take on the fourth-place San Diego Padres (18-21) in a four game series at Petco Park.
The Padres were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays before winning a two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, and they have won eight of 13 games in May, as have the Nationals.
The Nationals went 3-2 against them last year, and will look to bolster their continually disappointing offense to come away with a winning record again this year. The Nats finished April with a team slash line of .234/.296/.391, and halfway through May their stats are an even drearier .221/.283/.322.
But fortunately for the Nationals' chances in this series, the Padres haven’t been faring much better in May. Their offensive slash line is .231/.310/.387 this month, though their 3.33 May ERA has been helping them win ballgames.
However, their pitching numbers pale in comparison to the Nats’ MLB-leading 2.37 ERA for May. If the Nats keep pitching as they have been, and the offense finds a way to come alive in the Padres’ not so hitter friendly park, they have the opportunity to gain some momentum before facing the NL West leading San Francisco Giants.
The Injury Bug
Part of the Nationals offensive woes could be attributable to the fact that the last time all eight position players were in the lineup was on April 14. And it doesn’t look like the lineup will be complete any time soon, after the injury bug bit the Nationals hard last night.
Both Ross Detwiler and Wilson Ramos left last night’s game against the Dodgers with injuries, adding to the Nationals growing list of ailing players.
Ramos went 2-for-2 last night with a double off Zack Greinke, but the offense will have to wait a while before they can benefit from his spark. Ramos was put on the 15-day disabled list with a pulled hamstring for the second time this season, and catcher Jhonatan Solano was called up from Triple-A Syracuse.
Detwiler was doing well to begin his outing, but he was pulled from the game after the third inning due to back spasms and may miss his next start, according to the Washington Post.
Amidst all the bad news is some reprieve. Bryce Harper will be back in the starting lineup on Thursday after his unfortunate mishap with the wall in the Dodgers’ outfield, and Jayson Werth is eligible to return on Saturday.
The team is no doubt feeling the weight of having players out with injuries so often, but they will need to continue to find their way to win ballgames without their full lineup as they press on through the remaining three-fourths of the season.
Returning to Form
Stephen Strasburg will get the start in the series opener to try to reclaim the distinction of “ace” from Jordan Zimmermann, who continues to dominate. Strasburg was looking like his old self during the first four innings of his last start against the Chicago Cubs, until an implosion in the fourth inning knocked him from the game.
Zimmermann, though, continues to be the standout on the pitching staff. He still has had only one non-quality start – his one loss of the year against the New York Mets – and his ERA (1.69), opponent batting average (.197), WHIP (0.87), wins (7) and innings pitched (58.2) are all in the top ten in the MLB.
Strasburg has not been especially successful against the Padres in the past – he was charged with the loss in his only appearance opposing them. However, this will be the first time Strasburg, a San Diego native, will pitch at the major league level in his home town. So perhaps the extra support in the stands will help the Nationals' Opening Day starter get back on track.
In The Zone
Ryan Zimmerman (3B) .423 AVG, .483 OBP, .500 SLG, 2 2B, 5 RBI (last seven games)
Will Venable (RF) .294 AVG, .400 OBP, .471 SLG, 1 HR (last five games)
Carlos Quentin (LF) .214 AVG, .421 OBP, .643 SLG, 2 HR (last five games)
Chase Headley (3B) .176 AVG, .300 OBP, .412 SLG, 8 SO (last five games)
Everth Cabrera (SS) .087 AVG, .087 OBP, .087 SLG, 11 SO (last five games)
Stephen Strasburg (1-5, 3.10 ERA, .231 BAA, 51 SO) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-3, 5.15 ERA, .273 BAA, 24 SO)
Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.20 ERA, .200 BAA, 47 SO) vs. Burch Smith (0-0, 54.00 ERA, .625 BAA, 2 SO)
Jordan Zimmermann (7-1, 1.69 ERA, .197 BAA, 39 SO) vs. Eric Stults (3-3, 4.57 ERA, .287 BAA, 31 SO)
Dan Haren (4-4, ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (2-2, 2.84 ERA, .216 BAA, 27 SO)