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Diamondbacks vs. Nationals Series Preview: Power pitching defines series between playoff teams

The Nationals and Diamondbacks both rode strong rotations to the postseason a year ago. Will the starters define this series as well?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Diamondbacks (17-7) vs. Nationals (11-14) series info:

Game 1: Friday, April 27 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, April 28 at 4:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, April 29 at 1:35 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Friday: Zack Godley (3-1, 3.09 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97)

Saturday: Patrick Corbin (4-0, 1.89) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 4.50)

Sunday: Robbie Ray (2-0, 5.13) vs. Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.04)

What to watch for:

Beware the eighth inning

It’s no secret the Nationals’ bullpen has been a big disappointment on a team that’s seen quite a few of them while stumbling out to an 11-14 start. The eighth inning, however, has been a particularly difficult frame for the relief corps to get through. Washington owns a 6.84 ERA in the eighth, its highest mark in any inning (other than extras). That’s 19 earned runs in 25 frames — with four homers, 15 walks and just 6.8 K/9.

Trea Burner vs. Mikey T

Michael Taylor has always been fast, but is he really Trea Turner fast? So far, it looks like it. The Nationals lead the majors with 29 stolen bases in part because of the green light both Taylor and Turner have on the base paths. The duo is 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts on the season, with Turner only ahead by one. Both are on pace for over 60 steals, which would put them in rare company — but it wouldn’t be a first for the franchise. Only one MLB team has had two players eclipse 60 stolen bases in a season since 1913: the 1980 Montreal Expos with Ron LeFlore (97) and Rodney Scott (63).

Diamondbacks’ biggest strength

The Diamondbacks’ starting rotation was very good last season (3.61 ERA), as it included two starters in the top 10 of NL Cy Young voting and helped set a franchise record for the most team strikeouts in a season. Arizona’s pitching staff has gotten off to another strong start, and the Nats will be seeing their very best in this weekend series. That’s right, Zack Greinke isn’t even one of them.

Series history:

The Nationals lead the all-time series (2005-present) 51-34, posting a .614 winning percentage against the D-Backs at Nationals Park. Washington won four of six contests between the two clubs last season, winning both the series at home and on the road.