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Series Preview: Washington Nationals vs Kansas City Royals

The Washington Nationals will head to Kansas City to face the reigning champion Royals. Here we go!

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After a sweep that nearly nobody predicted, the Washington Nationals will continue their long and challenging journey by visiting another difficult opponent - the World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

The series will start at Kauffman Stadium tonight.

Heading into the three game set, the offense seems to have broken out of their funk. Against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team posted a total of seventeen runs in three games, including four runs against Carlos Martinez, who had only given up five before Sunday's game.

"Just some hits, some consecutive hits. He's tough," said Dusty Baker. "The key is that we got more aggressive."

Ironically for the Nationals, Bryce Harper, the only player outside of Daniel Murphy who has hit consistently all season, struggled during the series, went hitless.

"Bryce ain't going hitless for too long a period of time" Baker noted. "We picked him up, like he's picked us up many times."

Harper will try to rebound in Kansas City, where the Nationals last played in 2013. In that three game series he posted a .417 average with one home run and six RBI.

To be fair, though, the last time the Nationals played the Royals, they were a very different team.

Versus the Cardinals, the Nationals feasted on the mediocre starting pitching of Mike Leake and Jaime Garcia, and then did considerable damage against the Cardinals' bullpen. This time around, it could be more difficult.

Harper will face Edison Volquez on Monday, Chris Young on Tuesday, and Kris Medlen on Wednesday.

Harper has faced them all previously - with some good results, and some bad. Against Volquez, Harper is 0-6 on his career. Medlen, who Harper faced many times while the righty remained an Atlanta Brave, was not too much fun for Harper either, as the outfielder posted a .154 average with one home run and one RBI against the pitcher.

Young, on the other hand, could be just what Harper needs.

In his career against Young, Harper is a .500 hitter with a home run and three RBI.

Jayson Werth, in the meantime, will look to continue his recent dominance.

After struggling to start the season, Werth broke out against the Cardinals, going 4-10 with 5 RBI and a home run.

Danny Espinosa also enjoyed a good series, with two home runs and three RBI.

"It's good to see some other guys coming through," said Dusty Baker. "Sometimes, you've just got to be patient and wait on them. It's hard because everybody wants you to panic, but there's no panic around here."

On the other side of the ball, Gio Gonzalez will look to continue his dominance as he starts on Monday night. In his first four starts, Gonzalez has only given up five runs, and has already struck out twenty five.

In his last start, Gio pitched six innings, while only giving up one earned run.

"That's a pretty good outing", said Baker. "He's pitched excellent. If he keeps pitching like that, he's going to win a lot of ballgames."

Gonzalez will go tonight against the Royals, preceding Tanner Roark.

Roark enjoyed a great start against the Phillies, going seven scoreless while only allowing two hits.

"He had good offspeed stuff going, he had a good breaking ball, good changeup," Baker said of Roark. "He threw the ball well today."

After Roark, Stephen Strasburg will start. He also put together a solid start against the Cardinals on Friday, only allowing two runs, relying on his slider a little more than usual.

"I thought it was working really well tonight," Strasburg told Mark Zuckerman regarding his slider. "I was able to locate close enough to make it look like a strike."

The Kansas City Royals, to this point in the season, have not impressed like they did last year, and have been stifled by the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers.

Even so, they still have shown the same resilience as last year's World Series winning team.

The starting pitching, although mediocre at times, has shown promise. Kansas City's biggest advantage to this point in the season, though, is playing at home.

At Kauffman Stadium, the Royals are 8-3, their pitchers have a 2.79 ERA, and as a team, have scored 46 runs.

Even so, if the sweep in St. Louis is any indication, the series will be competitive. Two or three wins are not out of the question, but they'll be tough to come by.

What to watch for in Kansas City

Eric Hosmer is pretty hot right now
The Royals' first baseman lost his eighteen game hitting streak on Saturday, but on Sunday, he got back on track with a home run. Currently, the twenty-six-year-old is hitting .333 with four home runs and nine RBI.

The Royals may be the one team Daniel Murphy can't hit against
Murphy, who played against the Royals in the 2015 World Series, hit a meager .150, although he did walk five times.

Blake Treinen looks to roll on
In St. Louis, Blake Treinen was good, but not great. Although he never blew any leads, he came close on Friday night, giving up a two-run home run, and another solo shot on Sunday. The late game stalwart will strive for consistency against the Royals.

Monday, May 2nd: Nationals vs Royals - 8:15 PM (MASN, WJFK)
Probable Pitchers: Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42 ERA) vs Edison Volquez (3-1, 3.34 ERA)

Tuesday, May 3rd: Nationals vs Royals - 8:15 PM (MASN2, WJFK)
Probable Pitchers: Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.03 ERA) vs Chris Young (1-4, 6.12 ERA)

Wednesday, May 4th: Nationals vs Royals - 2:15 PM (MASN, MLB Network, WJFK)
Probable Pitchers: Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 2.25 ERA) vs Kris Medlen (1-2, 4.87 ERA)