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Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals Series Preview: Daniel Murphy returns

The Washington Nationals will have their hands full with a red-hot Chicago Cubs team in town — featuring familiar face Daniel Murphy.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs (82-57) vs. Nationals (69-71) series info:

Game 1: Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7:05 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Friday, Sept. 7 at 7:05 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:05 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7)

Game 4: Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1:35 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Thursday: Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.77 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 4.09)

Friday: Jon Lester (15-5, 3.53) vs. Joe Ross (5-3, 5.01)

Saturday: Cole Hamels (9-9, 3.67) vs. Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.28)

Sunday: Mike Montgomery (4-5, 3.85) vs. Erick Fedde (1-3, 6.00)

What to watch for:

Some bullpen relief

After throwing a successful sim game Thursday, Nationals closer Sean Doolittle (toe) appears close to returning from a lengthy DL stint that has kept him on the shelf since July 6th. He will resume his closer role and push Greg Holland and Justin Miller back into set-up positions.

The Nationals’ bullpen has missed Doolittle dearly, allowing the third-most home runs in the majors since he was placed on the disabled list. With a 1.45 ERA and an 11.8 K/9 on the season, the right-hander will have the chance to hit 40 innings and finish off the best campaign of his career strong.

Fedde has his chance

With Gio Gonzalez now in Milwaukee and Jeremy Hellickson still nursing a wrist injury, it appears Erick Fedde will stay in the team’s rotation through the end of the season. Although he only has a few starts left, this could be an opportunity to prove he belongs in the running for a spot in the rotation next season.

A.J. Cole showed some promise down the stretch last season and it helped propel him to the No. 5 spot in the rotation the following year. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark will all be back next season, but those last two turns of the rotation are certainly within reach if Fedde can seize the opportunity.

Murph doing well in the Windy City

In 13 games since joining the Cubs, Daniel Murphy has hit .316 with four homers and 10 runs scored. He’s been an instant spark for an already deep Chicago lineup that looks like the best in the National League right now.

Murphy always hit well against his previous former club — the New York Mets — after it decided not to bring him back to Queens once he hit free agency. After trading him away, Washington will have to be careful pitching to Murphy.

Series history:

The all-time series (2005-present) between these two times is knotted up at 45 wins apiece. In the District, the Nationals have the edge by just one game at 23-22. The Cubs took two of three when they hosted Washington earlier this season.