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Washington Nationals Series Preview: NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers next on road trip

The Nationals made a meal of their three-game series with the Marlins and now go on the road to face the 24-14 Brewers...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Were the Washington Nationals lucky to get out of a three-game series with the Miami Marlins with just a series loss? Quite possibly.

For the first two games of the series, it felt like only one team was truly in the series, with the Marlins taking them fairly convincingly.

While the Nats responded with a win in the finale, they tried their best to blow it in the ninth inning before scraping through in extra innings.

All the while, the Cincinnati Reds are gaining on them and are just a game behind for the worst record in the majors. So, yep. Still not great.

Next on the road trip for the Nationals is a trip to Wisconsin to face the Milwaukee Brewers.

Leaders of the National League Central, the Brewers have been a well-rounded team to this point, ranking 8th in the majors in both OPS and ERA to this point in the season, with the chance to improve on both of those if some of their key players can return to health and form.

Here’s the lowdown from American Family Field ahead of the three-game weekend series...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, May 20th, 8:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, May 21st, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, May 22nd, 2:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Erick Fedde (2-2, 4.24 ERA) vs Eric Lauer (3-1, 2.60 ERA)
  • Game Two: Patrick Corbin (0-6, 6.28 ERA) vs Brandon Woodruff (4-2, 5.35 ERA)
  • Game Three: Aaron Sanchez (2-3, 7.94 ERA) vs Freddy Peralta (3-1, 3.53 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Kyle Finnegan: A mix of players being in this section recently and the team playing poorly leaves pretty slim pickings for this section, but lately, Finnegan has looked back to old form.

In his last four appearances, the right-handed reliever hasn’t allowed a run in 4.2 innings of work. In that span, he’s allowed just three hits and struck out six while not allowing any free passes — Dave Martinez will be particularly happy with that last one.

In that stretch, Finnegan also had a mightily impressive outing in which he struck out Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon to hold onto a 4-2 lead. With his performance of late, he appears to have re-established himself as the team’s primary setup man.

Kolten Wong: When you think of offensive contributors for the Brewers, Wong’s name probably comes way down the list after the likes of Christian Yelich, Willy Adames, and others. In the month of May though, Wong is stuffing the stat sheet in almost every way.

So far this month, the second baseman is slashing a strong .294/.397/.569 with three home runs, 10 runs scored, and 6 RBIs. He’s drawing his walks, with 10 free passes to go with just 12 strikeouts, and to fill out his line, he’s also stolen five bases.

Wong jumped around the Brewers’ lineup early in the season, but his performance at the plate has led to a permanent spot atop the lineup for the foreseeable future.

Who’s not?

Dee Strange-Gordon: After a strange start to his Nationals tenure, acting as a utility man before landing on the Injured List for a prolonged period of time, Strange-Gordon returned to the active roster on May 3rd, but hasn’t managed to make an impression just yet.

Despite extended opportunity at shortstop with Alcides Escobar struggling at the plate and briefly sitting with an injury, Strange-Gordon is slashing a measly .185/.185/.185 with five hits, all singles, three strikeouts, no walks, and a wRC+ of just 2.

With Escobar looking a bit better at the dish lately, he looks to be the favored option there, at least until the Nationals deem Luis García ready to play shortstop every day in the majors.

Brandon Woodruff: For the past two seasons, the Brewers have had a strong front two in their rotation with reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes and Woodruff, with Freddy Peralta not far behind. However, Woodruff hasn’t been particularly sharp of late.

In his last four starts, the right-hander sports an underwhelming 6.16 ERA and 4.31 FIP across 19 innings.

While his strikeout-to-walk ratio is fine with 30 punchouts and six walks, the clear issue has been his inability to limit the long ball, allowing six home runs in that stretch.

Woodruff is set to start the second game of the series and could be looking forward to facing a hit-and-miss Nationals offense this weekend.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Brewers storylines from our friends at Brew Crew Ball...

One more thing to watch

With an offense in a rut, Nationals manager Dave Martinez made an interesting decision ahead of the team’s series finale against the Marlins on Wednesday.

Despite the series finale being another evening first pitch, the skipper decided that his team would skip batting practice on the field, something that teams will only usually do when they are playing a day game after a night game.

For Martinez, it was just a way to get them a break and change up their routine a bit.

“They hit, man. They hit tons,” Martinez explained. “They do so much work in the cage, we’ve been taking 20 minutes of ground balls every day.

“Yeah, just kind of wanted them to kind of relax and get their work in the cage, and get ready for the game.”

It worked to some extent on Wednesday as the Nationals squeezed out an extra-inning win, scoring five runs in the process, with the majority of the offense looking refreshed at the plate.

Is skipping on-field BP something that we could see the Nationals do again in the future?

“We’ve done it (before),” Martinez explained. “We do it every now and then. Like I said, we’re at the beginning of a road trip, third game in of a road trip, so give them a little breather, we got a day off tomorrow, so let’s try to go out there and exert our energy at 6:40.”

If the Nationals’ offense continues to be its hit-and-miss self, then be prepared for the team to do something different, including potentially skipping BP on the field again as they did in Miami.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: Back on July 31st, 2017, Gio Gonzalez pitched a near-no-hitter down in Miami against the Marlins, tossing eight hitless innings before his effort was broken up in the ninth inning. Who was it that broke up the no-no for the Marlins that day?

Answer: Dee Strange-Gordon

Here’s the trivia question for this series, again, centered on a notable game at the ballpark the Nationals will be visiting for the upcoming series...

Just before Max Scherzer tossed his first career no-hitter, the right-hander had a dominant start in Milwaukee against the Brewers. How many Brewers did he strike out that day?