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Nationals vs. Padres Series Preview: Red-hot Nats kick off West Coast trip against Padres

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Washington’s Nationals start a three-game series with the San Diego Padres in Petco Park at 10:10 PM EDT.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (18-17) vs. Padres (13-22) series info:

Game 1: Monday, May 7 at 10:10 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, May 8 at 10:10 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Game 3: Wednesday, May 2 at 9:10 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Stephen Strasburg (3-3, 3.47) vs. Tyson Ross (2-2, 3.28)

Tuesday: Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 3.00) vs. Clayton Richard (1-4, 6.21)

Wednesday: Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.33) vs. Joey Lucchesi (3-2, 3.13)

What to watch for:

Hellickson taking full advantage of No. 5 spot in rotation

A.J. Cole is long gone and in his place is journeyman Jeremy Hellickson, who’s been impressive in his four starts thus far this season. Although he has yet to earn a decision, Hellickson has allowed three runs or less in each of his starts. Nats manager Davey Martinez does have a tight leash on his fifth starter, who has struggled immensely against hitters the third time around, but Hellickson has still been an effective starter at the back end of the rotation.

Good luck hitting anything to center field

After finishing as a Gold Glove finalist in 2017, Michael Taylor has continued to be a force defensively. Taylor is one of four NL center fielders with at least 200 innings to post a 1.000 fielding percentage and is tied for second with four defensive runs saved. He has yet to turn things around offensively (.195 batting average with three home runs this season) but is still finding ways to contribute in the field.

Padres hitters are striking out at a historic rate

A day after their ace set an MLB record for 15 strikeouts in 6.1 innings, the Nationals are traveling to San Diego for a matchup with the NL’s most strikeout-prone team. The Padres have whiffed a staggering 355 times, which puts them on pace for 1,643 — 72 more than the 2017 Brewers, who struck out the most in baseball history. San Diego has six players with at least 30 strikeouts on the season, which is the most in the majors.

Series history:

The Padres lead the all-time series (2005-present) 44-39 but have split the 44 games played between the two teams at PETCO Park. Washington won five of seven contests between the two clubs last season, with a 3-1 mark on the road.

In their words…

Roy Thomasson, Gaslamp Ball

The Padres are coming off of a series win against the Dodgers in Monterrey, Mexico, where they recovered from an embarrassing no-hitter to take the final two from the boys in a slightly lighter shade of blue. They did that mostly on the backs of Franchy Cordero and Eric Hosmer.

Franchy Cordero is looking like a breakout rookie with power and speed for days and an approach at the plate that is getting better by the day. Eric Hosmer has started to earn his pay by putting the offense on his back with his on-base skills as well as a power surge.

On the rubber, the series will feature Tyson Ross, Joey Lucchesi and Clayton Richard starting for the Friars. Ross looks like an even better version of 2014 vintage Tyson Ross, and Lucchesi is showing promise and poise beyond his rookie status, while Clayton Richard has had trouble limiting walks, hits, and homers, which isn’t good. At least the Padres won’t face Max Scherzer, so the single-game strikeout record shouldn’t be in danger.