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Washington Nationals Series #3 Preview: Red Sox Opposition Research

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You may know the Nationals, but how well do you know the teams that they crush into the dust on the road back to a .500 record and beyond... to the stars? To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the Boston Red Sox. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

The guy on the right plays real baseball.  High five for that!
The guy on the right plays real baseball. High five for that!
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

So far, the Nats are about two games behind where they would need to be for fans to be happy, but things could turn around any time now.  The Nats now take a three game break from baseball and head to Fenway Park in Boston where they hope to do some tune up up work before the Phillies come to DC on Thursday.  The Nats and the Red Sox are both strong teams who have been riding their pitching.  The only difference so far is that the Red Sox offense has been league average, which helps them win games.  The Red Sox just finished up a long 37 inning series vs the Yankees, which was apparently some sort of protest against the new "pace of game" rules.

Monday, 3:05 pm - Jordan Zimmermann vs Rick Porcello
In Porcello's first start he lost to the Phillies.  Yes, the same Phillies who (we are told) are one of the worst teams in baseball.  Does he stand a chance against Zimmermann, who is still unbeaten this year?

Tuesday, 6:10 pm - Stephen Strasburg vs Justin Masterson
Masterson does not have a reputation for being a great pitcher, but he does know how to beat the Phillies.  Does that mean anything when Strasburg takes the mound?  No, it does not.

Wednesday, 1:35 pm - Gio Gonzalez vs Wade Miley
Wade Miley only managed to last for a quarter of his last game, which suggests that his endurance may not be what it once was.  Gio's first start ended poorly, but at least he finished 70% of a game.  Whoever can finish strong probably wins this one.

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The Red Sox Lineup

The Red Sox offense has been getting it done most of the time.  This is a family size lineup thanks to the unfortunate American League rules.

CF -  Mookie Betts
+ bat
average glove

This kid was phenomenal in his first cup of tea last year.  He is great at getting on base and at moving around the bases quickly and his slow start is unlikely to last too much longer.
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2B - Dustin Pedroia
++ glove
+bat
Pedroia had a down year in 2014 at the plate, but he has started this season strong.  His defense has always been sparkly.  Tell the boys not to hit the ball his way.
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DH - David Ortiz
++ bat
++ power (lefty)

Just because this isn't real baseball doesn't mean Ortiz isn't a scary man at the plate.  And for what it's worth, he has played 51 games at 1B over the past decade.  He's not purely one dimensional.

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LF - Hanley Ramirez
++ bat
? glove
We know him, we may not love him, but we acknowledge that he knows what he's doing with a bat.  On the field, Hanley is trying out a new position and it is too early to say if he is able to handle left field.  He'll probably be fine out there.  Couldn't hurt to test him, though.
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3B - Pablo Sandoval
+ bat (switch hitter)
+ nickname
Sandoval has started slow, but his bat is historically dependable and solid like a panda.
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1B - Mike Napoli
++ bat
solid glove

Napoli's season has been Nats level dismal so far.  He has yet to collect his first hit.  Don't worry, the offense will come any day now.  Any day.
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RF - Shane Victorino
? bat
? glove
Injuries leading to back surgery derailed Victorino's 2014 campaign, and it is too early to say if he is going to go back to being his old self any time soon.  So far, so not good.
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SS - Xander Bogaerts
- bat (or is it?)
average glove
++ name

This kid has the most dangerous bat on the team so far this year, but he's still being batted 8th.  Sure, batting over .400 is unsustainable, but pitchers will have to be careful with him at least for now.

C - Ryan Hanigan
meh bat
+ glove

He's a catcher who is solid at the plate (for a catcher).  His backup is Sandy Leon, who also played some 3B last night (replacing Panda in the 8th.. nobody hit the ball to him).

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The Red Sox Bullpen

This bullpen has been worked hard, 28 innings through six games.  Friday's game went 19 innings.  Sunday's starter only lasted 3.1 innings.  They've been getting the job done, but it hasn't been pretty.  Junichi Tazawa and Robbie Ross are still standing strong, but Tom Layne got hit hard by the Yankees on Sunday.  Layne, Ross and Craig Breslow are the lefties in this pen.  If the Nats can work the starters the strain that has already been put on this pen may tell.

Can They Be Swept?

Oh, absolutely.  The odds aren't great, but stranger things have happened (see the Nats actual start, for example).  This will be the biggest test for the Nationals pitching staff to date.  The Nats might be wise to take a page from the Yankees and just rely on scoring 14 runs to win a game.  It does seem like a solid strategy, doesn't it?

It would be a shame if the Nats don't  win every game, since the NL > AL.  One does not win 158 games by losing games.  If Abe had approved of not-winning and not-offense then he'd have left Gen. McClellan in charge of the army, and hence you can also be assured that he does not approve of not-winning baseball games.  Neither should you.