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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats return home to face the San Francisco Giants

Following a disappointing road trip, the Nationals host the National League-leading Giants at Nats Park...

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

It was a road trip that felt longer than nine games for the Washington Nationals and they finished with an underwhelming 4-5 record after a split with the Tampa Bay Rays.

They probably got just about what they expected from the series in Tampa. After all, they had to face AL Cy Young contender, Tyler Glasnow, in the first game. However, at times, it felt like that game was there for the taking with all the scoring chances the Nats wasted in the game.

They also seemingly tried their best to throw away the second game of the series, but in the end, they prevailed 9-7 in 11 innings, hence why even though the result of the series was good, fans can still be a little underwhelmed by how the series itself played out.

They finally come back home and to greet them will be the National League-leading San Francisco Giants in a four-game series this weekend.

The Giants have been one of the Major League Baseball’s underrated stories so far this season. Expected to struggle to keep up with the powerhouses in their division, they sit atop the NL West as we move into mid-June. But more on that later.

Here’s the lowdown from Nationals Park ahead of the series...

The schedule

  • Game One: Thursday, June 10th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Friday, June 11th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Saturday, June 12th, 7:15 pm EDT. TV: FOX, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Four: Sunday, June 13th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Max Scherzer (5-4, 2.22 ERA) vs Anthony DeSclafani (5-2, 3.51 ERA)
  • Game Two: Erick Fedde (3-4, 4.35 ERA) vs Kevin Gausman (7-0, 1.27 ERA)
  • Game Three: Joe Ross (2-6, 4.80 ERA) vs Johnny Cueto (4-2, 3.70 ERA)
  • Game Four: Jon Lester (0-2, 4.19 ERA) vs Alex Wood (5-3, 3.79 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Max Scherzer: It’s been a while since we had Max Scherzer here, not that he’s really spent this season anything other than hot on the mound aside from a couple of starts in April.

While he’s not on the same level as Jacob deGrom this season — let’s be honest, nobody is, he is truly special right now — the Nats’ right-hander looks like he’s back in the form that won him back-to-back Cy Young awards at the start of his seven-year contract.

In his seven starts since the start of May, Scherzer has a 1.72 ERA with 66 Ks and nine walks in 47 innings of work, leaving opponents with just a .164/.222/.270 slash line against him.

Scherzer takes the ball in the first game of the series, which is also the first time Nats Park will have no capacity restrictions since Game 5 of the World Series. This ought to be fun.

Kevin Gausman: It’s probably already stood out to you checking the schedule for the series, but not enough people are talking about how excellent of a season Gausman is having so far.

Entering this series, Gausman is fifth in the NL in fWAR behind Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes, Zack Wheeler, and Brandon Woodruff. He epitomizes the unexpected success that the Giants have had this year, dominating on the mound and leading their charge for the NL West.

He’s been even better of late too. Gausman hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last four starts over 24 innings of work while striking out 34, walking just four, and allowing one home run. Opposing hitters have slashed a measly .120/.161/.205 in those four games.

In this form, Gausman is a daunting matchup for the Nats. But, if they want some hope, the righty has a 5.24 ERA against Washington in his career, but he might be on another level this year.

Who’s not?

Kyle Schwarber: It looked like Schwarber was heating up in May, but he’s cooled back down again of late, despite Dave Martinez’s effort to get him going at the top of the lineup.

Since the team’s three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, the left fielder has a slash line of .184/.255/.245 with one home run, five walks, and 18 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances.

Though Schwarber has experience leading off, it was an interesting decision for the Nats skipper to put him at the top of the order against on Tuesday given his recent struggles and the fact his on-base percentage on the season was just .310 coming into that game.

As has been the case all year, they need Schwarber to bounce back and hit for power in the middle of the order if they want to make an unlikely comeback for a postseason berth.

Donovan Solano: The brother of former National Jhonatan Solano — not the first time you’ll hear that this weekend, MASN loves to mention it too — Donovan has been one of the most interesting stories in baseball for the past couple of seasons.

After a so-so time with the Miami Marlins before bouncing around the minor leagues, Solano reemerged with aplomb with the Giants and produced a .328/.362/.459 slash line with an OPS+ of 121 combined between 2019 and 2020, even winning a silver slugger last year.

It’s not quite been as successful this season for Solano who has dealt with a right calf strain that cost him 24 games. Since he’s returned from that injury, the second baseman has underwhelmed a little at the plate, slashing .228/.277/.351 with three extra-base hits.

In a Giants offense that’s firing on all cylinders, they can be patient with Solano to see if he regains the form he flashed before, but he could sit near the bottom of the order for now.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Giants storylines from our friends at McCovey Chronicles...

One more thing to watch

Coming into 2021, many thought that the Giants would continue their slow regression with the old guard towards the bottom of a top-heavy NL West. Instead, they turned back the clock.

Some of their key pieces from their three World Series titles in five seasons have stepped up again. Brandon Crawford is playing like a borderline MVP candidate so far, Buster Posey is hitting well north of .300 for the first time since 2015, and Brandon Belt has a wRC+ of 137.

Even Evan Longoria was having a fine season with a .280/.376/.516 slash line and 146 wRC+ until he went down with a left shoulder sprain after a nasty collision with Crawford on Saturday.

In a way, it’s a team that has seemingly followed the model of the 2019 Nationals.

They’ve got a lot of guys who have been around the block with the team and plenty of one-year deals for veterans who were undervalued in the free-agent market.

Everyone is waiting for the Giants’ magic to wear off, but they just keep chugging along ahead of the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, two teams that were expected to have a two-way bloodbath between them at the top of the division come September.

This won’t be an easy series for the Nationals by any means.