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Should the Washington Nationals lineup change for NLDS Game 3?

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The Nationals need better production from the leadoff spot and left field. Would it make sense to sub out Trea Turner and Jayson Werth for Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick?

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I am still excited about Saturday night’s win. Big moments from Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are almost enough to make me forget about how Trea Turner, Bryce, and Jayson Werth are a combined 2-for-23 with one walk. Now that the Cubs have de facto home field advantage, the batting order could probably use some tweaking. In a lineup which totaled four hits before last night’s eighth inning, who stays and who goes against José Quintana?

Shortstop

What can you do about Trea right now? He is 0-for-8 at the plate when he is the one guy, especially against someone with throwing issues like Jon Lester, who needs to get on base. Trea on the basepaths can effectively disrupt the rhythm of a battery. Both the pitcher and the catcher have to be concerned about not if, but when, he takes second base. For some reason, Trea hasn’t been able to get on base to be the threat we know he is.

Neither Trea Turner nor Wilmer Difo has faced Quintana, so where does Dusty Baker turn? Difo does not have a postseason plate appearance yet, but he cannot be any worse than Trea has been at the plate this series. He has not looked comfortable during either game and it does not make sense to keep throwing him out there if there is a more suitable option. Trea Turner batted .245 in 103 plate appearances against lefties this year, while Wilmer Difo batted .310 in 90. I say go with Difo for a game because his offense cannot be much worse than what Trea has done so far in this series.

José Quintana primarily features a four-seam fastball, curveball, and a sinker. Trea makes good contact on four-seamers, only whiffing 6.76 percent of the time. His batting average against is .222, which is not great since it’s Quintana’s most heavily relied-upon pitch. If you want to make a case for Trea, though, it’s that he bats .500 against curveballs from lefties. The curve is Quintana’s put-away pitch. He has 64 strikeouts against it; more than his four-seam fastball (59), which he uses most often, and his sinker (56). Difo, though, crushes four-seam fastballs from southpaws. He bats .357 against the four-seamers and swings at 65 percent of them.

The important thing to recognize about Quintana is that he will own the lower-outside corner against left-handed batters:

Trea Turner is less of a free-swinger than Wilmer Difo. Trea swings at 35 percent of the pitches he sees in that lower-outside part of the zone where Quintana seems to live. Difo swings at 47 percent of pitches in the same area.

The case can be made to start Trea, but he has not yet produced offensively. Based on the first two games, Difo seems an obvious choice.

Left Field

As much as I enjoy Jayson Werth, he is 0-for-7 with a walk. While Howie Kendrick has not faced him since 2014, Howie is 5-for-10 against Quintana in his career. Werth does not have a plate appearance against the lefty, and is in a similar boat to Trea. His defense is not good enough to outweigh a .000 average. Howie has been equally as productive in one plate appearance (BB) as Jayson Werth has been in seven. Based on both familiarity and recent production, there is every reason to start Howie Kendrick over Jayson Werth in Game 3.

Kendrick comes with experience against Quintana and is a defensive upgrade. My bet would be on Kendrick against Quintana due to history, and Werth against Jake Arrieta for the same reason. In nine plate appearances against Arrieta, Jayson Werth has two hits and a walk. Rest him on Monday and start him on Tuesday.

Outside of bombarding the Cubs’ bullpen in Saturday’s game, the Nationals have made Kyle Hendricks (Who occasionally flirts with pitches above 90 miles per hour), and Jon Lester (who threw twice to first base!), look like Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Outside of that inning, the Nats have four hits. The lineup needs to get going, and perhaps switching out Werth and Turner will light the fire.


Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @HighStarkSunday.