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Series Preview: Detroit Tigers vs Washington Nationals

The Tigers come to town to play the Nationals this week. Roar.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals are in second place! The Cubs swept the Nationals! End the season! Call it all off! It's all over!

Now that the overreacting portion of the show is over, the Nationals will hopefully find themselves back on the top of the division sooner or later.

In the meantime, the Nationals return home today to face the Detroit Tigers, which they are extremely excited about on account of the fact that the Tigers are not the Cubs.

The Tigers, as of today, are below .500 on the season after going 13-10 in the month of April, and will look to get back on track against the Nationals, starting with Anibal Sanchez, who will take the mound opposite of Stephen Strasburg on tonight.

Sanchez, to this point in the season, has had a lot of issues. The righty has a 5.87 ERA in 30.2 innings, giving up twenty earned runs and nineteen walks.

Sanchez, who formerly pitched for the Marlins, will look to rebound against the Nationals, a team that he's had success against in the past. In 21 starts against Washington, the righty is 9-1 with a 1.98 ERA.

There are only a few things going very well for Detroit right now, one of which being the pitching of former Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, who has only lost one start, posting a 5-1 record with a 1.10 ERA. He'll face off against Max Scherzer on Wednesday.

Nick Castellanos has also been spectacular thus far for Detroit, hitting .375 with 24 RBI.

For the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg will pitch on Monday, the only starter who did not throw against Chicago, after going six innings and only giving up two runs, moving his record to 5-0 with a 2.36 ERA.

Strasburg wasn't perfect against the Royals on May 4th, giving up five hits and a walk, but the team behind him picked him up.

"Stras wasn't real sharp," said Dusty Baker. "But we gave him a lead early... and (the Royals) helped us out in that first inning, because they're a very good defensive team.. they actually gave us three outs in that first inning and then we capitalized on it."

Strasburg has only pitched one career game against the Tigers, which came in 2013, a start where he went seven innings, gave up five runs and six hits.

On Wednesday, Max Scherzer will look to bounce back as Jordan Zimmermann makes his return to Nationals Park.

Although it may be a sentimental moment for Nationals fans, the Tigers could easily spoil it if Scherzer performs the way he did in his previous start, a five inning start in which the Cubs posted seven runs on four home runs and seven hits.

"Just location. Some of those balls were a little but up in the middle of the plate," Dusty Baker said after Scherzer's disappointing start on Friday.

"If you're not locating the ball, especially the fastball, then you're going to get hit."

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper will attempt to break out of a slump that the Cubs refused to let him even attempt to break out of - Harper only had four official plate appearances against Chicago from Thursday through Sunday, walking thirteen times with one HBP.

"I think it's scared baseball" said Tanner Roark, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.

Roark started on Sunday against Chicago, a game the Nationals lost in thirteen innings, and a game in which Harper walked six times.

"The fans didn't come here to see him walk, you know what I mean?" said Baker. "They come here to see him swing the bat."

The only problem with getting Harper more hittable pitches, is that there's a lack of protection behind him in the lineup in Ryan Zimmerman.

"Until we start swinging the bat behind him, that's going to be the norm," Baker noted regarding walks.

"You can feel the pressure mounting on Zim, but this guy has been a clutch man in this organization for a long time. I'm sure it's killing him, and we just have to go back to the drawing board and just keep fighting."

Rumors swirled on Sunday and Monday that Daniel Murphy may switch spots with Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup.

If that does happen, Harper will get one of the best hitters in baseball behind him in Murphy, who, to this point in the season, is hitting .395 with seventeen RBI.

"Murphy has an idea of what he wants to hit when he walks up there. This guy studies," Dusty Baker told the press.

"Right now, he's seeing the ball very, very, very well."

The Nationals will get another offensive pickup once Ben Revere begins to hit consistently after coming off the DL, something that should not take too long.

Revere returned to the lineup after missing more than a month, a moment he had been waiting for anxiously.

Revere spoke to the media about his injury and rehab process on Friday, his first game back.

"It was tough for me, it was definitely tough, but it's the type of injury you've got to let heal."

Revere came back to the team 32 days after Opening Day.

"Kind of a bummer to miss a month of the season, but it's also good that your team is doing so well without you. The chemistry in that locker room is great."

After going 0-5 in his first game back, Revere went 3-10 over the weekend. Against the Tigers in his career, Revere is a .306 hitter in 37 games.

Although the Nationals offense struggled with runners in scoring position, the bullpen was also a sore point during the series against the Cubs, giving up an unprecedented ten runs to the Cubs in four games.

"Our bullpen was way short," Dusty Baker remarked after Sunday's thirteen-inning loss.

"We didn't have [Sammy] Solis, we didn't have [Shawn] Kelley, he had gone three days in a row. That's why we had [Jonathan Papelbon] out there for a couple of innings. We were short in the bullpen, but we had enough to win the ballgame."

Blake Treinen in particular didn't enjoy a good weekend. In his two appearances, he gave up two earned runs on three hits in just 1.1 innings, including a walk-off home run to Javier Baez.

Oliver Perez also struggled against the Cubs on Sunday, giving up two earned runs in just one third of an inning.

At some point, the Nationals will need to begin to question their arms in the bullpen - although it's been consistent almost all season.

There are many promising pitchers in Triple-A Syracuse, including Austin Voth and Trevor Gott, who could possibly make an immediate impact in the majors.

But for now, as long as the Nationals remain in first or close to the Mets, such moves will probably be postponed.

The Tigers are a good team, not a great team. Although their record inaccurately reflects the strength of their team, it also does accurately reflect their early season struggles.

The Nationals and Tigers are well matched, but for now, one would have to assume that the advantage lies with Washington, even after such a rough series against the Cubs.

Baker was happy to move on after a rough weekend, but also believed his team was ready to keep rolling.

"Our guys got a lot of pride out there, " said Baker. "We're still right there, I mean, big time. We've got to lick our wounds and kind of limp back in."


Monday: Stephen Strasburg (5-0), 2.36 ERA vs Anibal Sanchez (3-3), 5.87 ERA)

Tuesday: Joe Ross (3-1), 1.23 ERA vs Michael Fulmer (1-1), 6.30 ERA

Wednesday: Max Scherzer (3-2), 4.60 ERA vs Jordan Zimmermann (5-1), 1.10 ERA