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Washington Nationals Series Preview: First meeting of the season with the Colorado Rockies

There are only five series left this season for the Nationals, but they play two of them against the Rockies. Weird.

Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Bullpen woes, bullpen woes, and more bullpen woes. That’s been the main story of late for the Washington Nationals.

Wednesday’s series finale against the Miami Marlins was yet another case where the Nationals seemed to get solid starting pitching, an offense that kept rallying, but the bullpen couldn't contain the other team and it left them on the losing end of another series.

Even then, seemingly the only reliable Nats’ reliever, Kyle Finnegan, was the one that blew the save, admittedly, while being asked to go more than one inning to convert another opportunity.

As the Nationals wrap up their second-to-last homestand of the season, the Colorado Rockies come town for a three-game weekend series, and yes, as the title says, this is the first time these two teams will face off, despite there only being five series left this season.

The last time these two teams played was when the Nationals debuted their Gerardo Parra Baby Shark graphic on the jumbotron and when Trea Turner hit his second career cycle.

Here’s what you can expect from the three-game set at Nationals Park...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, September 17th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, September 18th, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, September 19th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Josiah Gray (0-2, 6.00 ERA) vs Germán Márquez (12-10, 3.93 ERA)
  • Game Two: Patrick Corbin (8-14, 5.98 ERA) vs Kyle Freeland (5-8, 4.76 ERA)
  • Game Three: Paolo Espino (4-5, 4.18 ERA) vs Ryan Feltner (0-1, 11.37 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Ryan Zimmerman: Trust us, Zimmerman and others around the Nationals organization have been asking whether this might be his final few weeks in professional baseball — Patrick has definitely been trying, bless him.

While Zimmerman leaves us guessing, he’s started to swing a hot stick at the plate again lately.

In the month of September, the first baseman is slashing .286/.412/.714 in 17 plate appearances with two home runs, including a second-deck, opposite-field shot, that Statcast estimated at 442 feet, in the second game of the team’s last series against the Marlins.

Even with the recent hot streak, Zimmerman figures to continue to only see the odd start or two per week, especially with Josh Bell swinging the bat really well to end the season.

Trevor Story: To the surprise of many, as the trade deadline passed, Story remained with the Rockies.

Even dating back to the offseason, very few in the industry expected him to stay with the team through the entire season, but here we are, the Rockies decided that they would be better off getting draft pick compensation for their homegrown shortstop. Alright then.

Since the trade deadline, Story has picked his production back up again after a somewhat underwhelming first half of the season. In 40 appearances since then, he’s slashing a strong .264/.356/.586 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs, good for a wRC+ of 134 in that stretch.

As a pending free agent after this season, Story will look to continue his strong finish to the year and have the potential to cash in on a big contract this offseason.

Who’s not?

Carter Kieboom: Kieboom has become a bit streaky since being recalled to the big leagues full-time as the Nationals began their trade deadline sell-off at the end of July.

Between the trade deadline and the end of August, Kieboom sported a solid .255/.350/.461 slash line with six home runs, 16 RBIs, and a wRC+ of 116, just above the league average.

However, since the start of September, it’s been a different story. In his 14 appearances in September, Kieboom is slashing just .200/.254/.218 with only one extra-base hit and a lackluster 31 wRC+.

Part of that has come from an average-exit velocity that has dipped to just 83.9 mph in that stretch, even while he’s had more than his fair share of ground balls with eyes in this run.

Kieboom obviously has the third base job all to himself the rest of the way, aside from the odd off-day. He’ll want to pick up his performance again and start crushing those extra-base hits again just as he was when he took over the role around six weeks ago.

Raimel Tapia: Throughout his career to this point, Tapia has tantalized, at times, with his potential, but continues to struggle to stay healthy for a full season.

This year, he avoided injury until August 10th when he hit the Injured List with a big toe strain. At that point, he was slashing a solid, if unspectacular, .288/.339/.386 with five home runs.

He returned from that injury on August 30th, but the results haven’t followed. In 51 plate appearances, the young outfielder is slashing just .178/.255/.244 with a triple, double, and a disappointing 25 wRC+.

Some of that is bad luck with a .195 BABIP that should correct itself, however, he may still be nursing through his injury with an average exit velocity of just 82.6 mph since returning.

Tapia has previously done well against the Nationals in his career, with a .296/.321/.630 slash line in 10 games against them, so he’ll be hoping he can bounce back in this series.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Rockies storylines from our friends at Purple Row...

One more thing to watch

A lot of the talk earlier this season around the Rockies was the staggering difference between their home and road records this season.

For much of the season, they were on pace to have the worst road record in the history of Major League Baseball, and it took them until July 23rd to record their 10th road win of the season.

It’s not quite been as bad as earlier in the season, but they’re still in a situation where the .314 difference in their home winning percentage of .625 and their road winning percentage of .311 is in contention for the biggest differential in MLB history, with the 1945 Philadelphia Athletics the largest so far at .356, as noted by Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post last month.

They’d been on course to take that record for most of the year, but have now won nine of their last 14 road games and are currently in the midst of a 5-1 road trip, helping to distance themselves a little bit from the record, but could still hit it in their remaining games.

Which road Rockies will the Nationals see this weekend? Who knows, but one thing is for sure, they’re not on the historically bad path they once were early on in the season.