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Washington Nationals Series #15 Preview: Cubs Opposition Research

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The Nationals are headed (mid)west for three games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are a good team, and not only because they swept the Mets for four games two weeks ago. To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the Cubs. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

The Cubs strike out a lot, but they have mahjick.
The Cubs strike out a lot, but they have mahjick.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs just won half of a road trip through San Diego and Arizona.  Overall, they have a solid winning record but still trail the Cardinals by 3.5 games.  The Cubs are a balanced team, with an average offense that strikes out a lot, decent defense and above average pitching.  They may not win their division, but they have a good shot at taking a wild card spot if they keep at it.  The Nationals have now won their 8th series, but only two of those were sweeps.  It is a sad fact.  Let's not dwell on it too long and instead look at who they're facing these next three days.

Monday, 2:20 pm - Tanner Roark vs Tsuyoshi Wada
Lefty Tsuyoshi Wada was recently given the rotation spot of Travis Wood, who moved to the bullpen.  In his one start so far this year, Wada struck out nine in 4.2 innings, allowing 2 ER to score.  His rookie campaign last year was solid.  This guy is no pushover, but then neither is Roark.  This is Roark's first start of the year, but he has a solid 2.66 ERA through 20.1 innings.  Expect Roark to stay in for around 70 pitches, with Taylor Jordan filling in as the long man.

Tuesday, 7:05 pm - Jordan Zimmermann vs Kyle Hendricks
Hendricks just threw a complete game shutout against the Padres.  The game before that, he allowed 5 ER.  The edge, however, goes to Zimm thanks to his dependability and strong peripherals.  Both pitchers are stingy with walks, so it may be a low scoring game if they both do their "thing", but the Nationals certainly have the bats to crack this one.

Wednesday, 8:05 pm - Max Scherzer vs Jon Lester
The marquee matchup.  Lester had a rough start to his season, but he has settled down to being very good.  Scherzer has put up three great games himself.  Nobody knows who will crack first.  Lester is a lefty, which may be an issue for certain portions of the Nationals order, but hopefully all the Nationals contribute to end this series on a high note.

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The Cubs Lineup

CF - Dexter Fowler
+ bat (switch)
++ speed
- glove
Fowler is not the best defensive center fielder, but he gets on base well (.359 OBP) and has already stolen 11 bases this year.
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3B - Kris Bryant
++ bat 
- glove
This greatly anticipated rookie has not disappointed in his first 34 games, posting a .282/.401/.460 slash line.  He does strike out a lot (29.4% rate), but that isn't holding him back so far.
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1B - Anthony Rizzo
+++ bat (lefty)
- glove
+ speed
Rizzo has actually managed to improve on last season's numbers.  He has 9 HR and his line sits at a monstrous .322/.444/.586.
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SS - Starlin Castro
- bat
average glove
Castro is having a down year.  His power is largely missing and his OBP stands at .301.
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C - Miguel Montero
+ bat (lefty)
+ glove
After several sub-par seasons in Arizona, Montero has made plenty of fans with his batting line of .268/.392/.433.
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RF - Jorge Soler
+ bat
- glove

Soler has not shown the same power that he did in the minors or in his cup of tea last year, but is contributing a solid .282/.342/.411 but with a strikeout rate of 32.1%.
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LF - Chris Coghlan
- bat (lefty)
-? glove
+ power
Coghlan has a .283 OBP but 7 HRs.  He is historically a poor defender, but has turned things around a little this year.
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2B - Addison Russell
+ glove
- bat
#9 - Please note that the pitcher will generally bat 8th.  This rookie gets the #9 slot.  His 36.2% strikeout rate and his .293 OBP are not very inspiring, but he has been solid in his move to the majors.




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The Cubs Bullpen

The Cubs bullpen is definitely a weak spot for the team.  It has a 4.11 ERA, which is a full run higher than the Nationals.  Converted lefty start Travis Wood has been solid through 2 IP in the pen.  Grimm is solid too.


Can They Be Swept?

These games are all winnable.  The top of the Cubs lineup is pretty scary, but overall they feel noticeably weaker than the Nats.  These should all be exciting games, so cheer extra hard.  The Nats do face two lefty starters, but hopefully they can work around that.

Clearly, it would be a shame if the Nats don't  win every game.  One does not win 144 games by losing games.  As we noted earlier, the Nationals have won eight series in a row but have only swept two of those (and one was only a two games set, and against an American League team to boot).  They need to get their act together and learn how to win like winners do, by not losing.

Never give up!  Never surrender!  Also, hit lots of home runs!