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Nationals vs. Giants Series Preview: Nats wrap up West Coast trip in San Francisco

The Washington Nationals couldn’t get a series win in Los Angeles but will hope for better luck in the Bay Area.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (10-12) vs. Giants (9-12) series info:

Game 1: Monday, April 23 at 10:15 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, April 24 at 10:15 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Game 3: Wednesday, April 25 at 3:45 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49 ERA) vs. Chris Stratton (1-1, 2.22)

Tuesday: Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24) vs. Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10)

Wednesday: Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36) vs. Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00)

What to watch for:

Respect the A

Amid a slew of sluggish starts, Michael A. Taylor hasn’t caught a lot of the negative attention Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters have seen for their poor performances to start the season. Over his last eight games, however, Taylor has begun to heat up. After scoring a pair of runs and hitting his first long ball of the season Sunday night, Taylor has raised his slash line since April 14 to .346/.433/.615. He’s tied for the NL lead in stolen bases with eight and has the second most doubles on the team (five).

One of these days, the bullpen won’t be a hotly debated topic

However, today is not one of those days. The Nationals surrendered two late leads in their series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, raising questions as to whether the team needs help from the trade market. A.J. Cole has already been designated for assignment, but someone else will likely follow once Joaquin Benoit — whom we haven’t gotten any news on in almost a month — is activated from the disabled list. In the meantime, Brandon Kintzler (seven straight scoreless appearances) and Sean Doolittle (4-for-4 in save opportunities) will be getting a bulk of the high-leverage innings.

Visit with an old friend

Nationals fan “favorite” Hunter Strickland has been the Giants’ fill-in closer to start the season while former Nat Mark Melancon works his way back from elbow surgery. He’s converted three saves in five chances and has had several rollercoaster outings. The Nationals’ lineup has struggled late in games (.692 OPS in the seventh through ninth innings), but could perhaps get something going against the susceptible Strickland.

Series history:

The Nationals lead the all-time series with the Giants (2005-present) by a margin of 45-39 but sit three games under .500 against them on the road. However, Washington won five of six against San Francisco last season, including all three games played at AT&T Park.

In their words…

Bryan Murphy, McCovey Chronicles

Giants’ starting pitching has been surprisingly stingy despite losing 40% of their rotation right at the end of Spring Training. The Nationals will miss Johnny Cueto, who’s had four dominant starts to begin the season, but Chris Stratton has posted a sub 2.50 ERA over his last 70 innings (since he’s shifted to a full-time starter, basically) and Samardzija looked great in his return Friday night. They still struggle to score, of course, and Bruce Bochy manages the team differently when they face a lefty starter, and... most importantly, the Giants have won only 40% of their games since after the All-Star Break of 2016.