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Washington Nationals vs. Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: Nats aim to get back on track

The Washington Nationals have a few cold streaks to snap as they head south for a quick-two game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Atlanta Braves v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Nationals (41-35) vs. Rays (37-40) series info:

Game 1: Monday, June 25 at 7:10 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, June 26 at 12:10 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (9-4, 2.48 ERA)

Tuesday: Max Scherzer (10-3, 2.09) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (1-3, 4.91)

What to watch for:

Nats need Harper, Murphy to lengthen lineup

Against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night, the Nationals’ lineup flashed signs of living up to its full potential. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy each tallied three hits, the former of whom logged three consecutive doubles to finish the night.

Washington’s offense has struggled as of late, scraping runs across only because Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon are swinging hot bats. If Harper can regain a resemblance of his MVP form and Murphy can finally get his legs beneath him, the Nationals’ lineup becomes significantly deeper.

Gio looks to get out of his slump

Entering June, Gio Gonzalez sported a sparkling 2.10 ERA after pitching 7.2 scoreless innings in his final May start. In his four starts since, Gonzalez has allowed 14 ER in 20.1 innings (6.20) and only reached the seventh inning once.

With both Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson on the disabled list and Tanner Roark struggling as well, the Nationals need Gonzalez at the top of his game to help keep them in the NL East race. He’s currently slated to pitch the series finale against Philadelphia this upcoming Sunday, so Monday’s start will serve as a test to see if he’s back on track before taking on the division rival.

Snell will be a tough match

On the flip side of the Monday night matchup, Blake Snell has quietly been one of the better pitchers in baseball this season. His nine wins and 2.48 ERA jump off the page, but what’s truly impressive are his 27.3 percent strikeout rate and 1.06 WHIP (both rank ninth in the AL).

While Snell’s 3.62 FIP and .188 BABIP indicate he may be due for some regression, he’s right in the thick of All-Star considerations and is only 25 years old. Over his past seven starts, he’s gone at least six innings allowing two earned runs or less five times.

Series history:

The Rays lead the all-time series (2005-present) 8-7, taking four of five in their home ballpark. Washington swept the two-game series played between these two clubs earlier in June.