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Cincinnati Reds vs Washington Nationals Series Preview: Brace yourselves, homers are coming

Two teams that sport multiple players in contention for the NL home run title will battle it out this weekend in the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Reds (30-41) vs. Nationals (43-29) Series Info:

Game 1: Friday, June 22 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, June 23 at 4:05 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, June 24 at 1:35 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Luis Castillo (MLB debut) vs. Stephen Strasburg (8-2, 3.28)

Saturday: Homer Bailey (2-3, 6.65) vs. Joe Ross (3-3, 5.98)

Sunday: Scott Feldman (5-5, 4.20) vs. Tanner Roark (6-4, 4.88)

What to watch for:

Nationals’ bench answering the call

Washington has one of the deepest offenses in baseball — which is no secret — but an underrated part of its game is how effective its bench has been when called upon.

Not only do the Nats rank third in the majors with a .775 OPS as pinch hitters, every current bench player other than Jose Lobaton has an OPS of .784 or higher.

Adam Lind and Stephen Drew have proven to be valuable offseason signings, while Brian Goodwin and Ryan Raburn have made the best of the midseason opportunities they’ve received.

The closer search is well underway

It appears the bullpen fiascos are finally becoming too much for Mike Rizzo, as the Nats GM reportedly has a long list of potential trade candidates.

According to FanRag’s Jon Heyman, that list includes David Robertson, Mark Melancon, Kelvin Herrera and Tony Watson, while’s Ken Rosenthal has indicated that Ryan Madson, Justin Wilson and Pat Neshek are on Rizzo’s radar as well.

The trade deadline is not for another five weeks, but the Nationals are doing their due diligence in an attempt to make a deal that doesn’t completely wipe out their farm system.

Chicks dig the long ball

Believe it or not, the two players in this series with the most home runs this season do not play for the Nats.

That would be Joey Votto and Scott Shebler, who are tied for second in the Senior Circuit with 20 apiece.

Not too far behind, however, are Ryan Zimmerman (19) and Bryce Harper (18).

The ball will be flying at Nationals Park this weekend, folks.

Who to watch out for: Scott Schebler

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Wait a minute, who was that Scott Shebler guy you mentioned?

That’s right, the 26-year-old lefty has already hit more home runs in the 67 games he’s played this year than he did in his first 101 career games before that.

Surprise MVP candidate Zack Cozart is on the 10-Day Disabled List, putting pressure on guys like Shebler and Adam Duvall to step up and help Votto carry the lineup.