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Washington Nationals vs Chicago Cubs Series Preview: Potential NLDS preview at Wrigley

The NL East-leading Washington Nationals play the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs in a potential playoff primer.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (63-43) vs. Cubs (57-50) Series Info:

Game 1: Friday, Aug. 4 at 2:20 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, Aug. 5 at 2:20 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, Aug. 6 at 2:20 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Tanner Roark (8-7, 4.93 ERA) vs. Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.80)

Saturday: TBA (Gio Gonzalez?) vs. John Lackey (8-9, 4.87)

Sunday: TBA (Edwin Jackson?) vs. Jon Lester (8-6, 3.96)

What to watch for:

Injuries to Nats’ starting rotation taking their toll

Stephen Strasburg’s on the disabled list, Max Scherzer’s dealing with neck discomfort and Gio Gonzalez is expecting the birth of his child, possibly leaving the Nationals without their three best pitchers for this series.

Scherzer is visiting a chiropractor and could make his next start (Sunday) if all goes well and Gonzalez, whose next turn in the rotation is Saturday, might take the mound if the baby’s born after the game, but signs point to the Nats having to dig into their starting pitching depth for this one.

Erick Fedde was just sent down to AAA-Syracuse when A.J. Cole was recalled, but he could be brought back off if Gonzalez is placed on the paternity list.

We’ll also most likely get another look at Edwin Jackson, who is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts with Washington this season.

Ryan Zimmerman fighting to stay over .300

After a hot start to the season, Ryan Zimmerman has cooled off considerably over the past six weeks.

Since June 14, Zimmerman is hitting just .215 with five homers. In the 58 games prior, he hit .372 with 19 bombs.

Now, Zimmerman’s average has dipped down to .309 and he finds himself in a 0-12 skid entering play Friday.

How will Wade Davis respond?

Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Diamondbacks, Wade Davis had never pitched in a game that the Cubs lost.

That all changed when he served up a pair of homers to Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez to cost Chicago the game.

While Davis has been a brilliant closer for the Cubs this season (2.43 ERA, 22 saves), this will be the first time all year he has to come back from an off outing like that.

Who to watch out for: Willson Contreras

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Since the start of July, Willson Contreras is hitting .340 with an OPS over 1.000.

Chicago certainly misses the leadership David Ross provided during the team’s championship run, but Contreras has taken ahold of the catching role and run with it since taking Ross’s spot on the roster.

The Nationals won’t be able to run wild on him like they did to Miguel Montero, and he’s just as dangerous at the plate as he is behind it.

In their words…

Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue

“After a first half no Cubs fan wants to remember, the All-Star break and the Jose Quintana deal seem to have re-energized the team and they're now playing much as they did throughout the 2016 season. Cubs starting pitching in particular has been outstanding during the second half, and that's what the Nats will have to solve in order to win games at Wrigley. Hey, maybe the Cubs will have another Bryce Harper walkathon at Wrigley as they did last year!”