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Red Sox vs. Nationals Series Preview: Nats slip dangerously close to .500

The Washington Nationals could find themselves with a losing record if they’re swept in this three-game series with the Boston Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Red Sox (56-29) vs. Nationals (42-40) series info:

Game 1: Monday, July 2 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Tuesday, July 3 at 6:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Wednesday, July 4 at 11:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Monday: Rick Porcello (9-3, 3.60) vs. Max Scherzer (10-4, 2.04)

Tuesday: Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.28) vs. Tanner Roark (3-9, 4.10)

Wednesday: Eduardo Rodriguez (9-3, 4.11) vs. Erick Fedde (1-3, 6.00)

What to watch for:

Nats’ bullpen is heavily taxed

In Sunday’s series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals used all seven relievers available in their bullpen before losing in the 13th inning on an Andrew Knapp walk-off. Justin Miller is presumably unavailable after pitching for three straight days and both Ryan Madson and Kelvin Herrera have appeared in back-to-back games.

Manager Davey Martinez will be hoping Max Scherzer can pitch deep into the series opener. Luckily, Scherzer has thrown at least six innings in all but one of his starts this season and tossed 104 pitches his last time out—just below his season average of 106 pitches per start.

The catchers continue to struggle

The pressure for Mike Rizzo to acquire a starting catcher is only mounting with every Pedro Severino strikeout and Spencer Kieboom grounder straight at an infielder. Nats catchers have posted a .546 OPS this season, which is the worst mark for any team out of the catcher spot by 15 points.

Injured starter Matt Wieters is slated to participate in a simulation game Monday, but even he was hitting just .231/.342/.385 before he went down with a hamstring injury. The Nationals’ offense was abysmal in the month of June and the catcher spot was a black hole right at the center of it.

Familiar foe Kimbrel comes to town

The Nationals haven’t faced former Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel since 2015 when he was with … the San Diego Padres. Did you forget he pitched for the Padres? I definitely did.

Kimbrel is in the midst of another stellar season. He’s the owner of a 2.16 ERA, 24 saves, a 13.2 K/9 and a 0.87 WHIP in 33.1 innings. Kimbrel will undoubtedly be back in D.C. for the All-Star Game, but for now the Nats will have to hope they’re not behind entering the ninth inning or else they’ll have to face their former division rival.

Series history:

The Red Sox lead the all-time series (2005-present) 7-5, but this only the second series they’ve ever played at Nationals Park. In a schedule quirk, Washington only played one series against Boston the last time it faced the AL East — dropping two of three at Fenway Park.