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Washington Nationals Series Preview: The Colorado Rockies have cooled down

The Rockies were off to a nice start when the Nationals last faced them. Since then though, they’ve struggled and will be hoping to bounce back against the Nats...

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Did the Washington Nationals drop the first two games of a three-game series and then win the series finale to prevent a sweep again? Yes, they did!

For the third series in succession, the Nationals were playing salvage-ball trying not to get swept, and thanks to a gem from Erick Fedde and the bullpen, they shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 1-0 win, even if they can thank the dead ball for the final out of the game.

To start the series, however, it was a familiar tale of starting pitching getting rocked for too many runs for the inconsistent offense to keep up with, which left them in that 2-0 hole in the three-game set.

Next for the Nationals, they face the Colorado Rockies for the second time this season.

Following their series victory over the Nats, the Rockies sat at 15-10, tied for the fifth-best record in the National League, and were third in their division. However, they’ve gone just 5-13 since then and are seemingly regressing back to where many thought they would be this year.

Here’s the lowdown ahead of the four-game series in Nationals Park...

The schedule

  • Game One: Thursday, May 26th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Friday, May 27th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Saturday, May 28th, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Four: Sunday, May 29th, 1:35 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Patrick Corbin (0-7, 6.60 ERA) vs Germán Márquez (1-4, 6.14 ERA)
  • Game Two: Aaron Sanchez (3-3, 7.16 ERA) vs Austin Gomber (2-4, 4.11 ERA)
  • Game Three: Joan Adon (1-8, 6.97 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (3-2, 3.67 ERA)
  • Game Four: Josiah Gray (4-4, 5.44 ERA) vs Kyle Freeland (1-4, 4.60 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Paolo Espino: The Secret Weapon™ is back to doing The Secret Weapon™ things out of the bullpen. Despite not winning a spot in the rotation this season, Espino continues to be invaluable out of the bullpen in whatever situation manager Dave Martinez needs that day.

Since a couple of poor outings at the start of the season, Espino has posted a 1.17ERA and 2.92 FIP in 14 appearances. But what Martinez will be most excited about is that his reliever hasn’t walked a batter in those appearances, even if he’s only struck out 8 batters in 15.1 innings.

Given the struggles of Joan Adon and Aaron Sanchez in the rotation, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that Espino gets another shot as a starter. Either way, until such a time comes, he’ll keep plugging away in the bullpen in a wide variety of roles.

Brendan Rodgers: Yes, C.J. Cron is still bopping away for the Rockies, albeit at a lesser pace than when we had him in this section when these two teams last faced off. So, instead, we look at his fellow infielder in Rodgers, who has been hitting well at the plate lately.

In the month of May, Rodgers is slashing a strong .351/.367/.507 with six doubles and two home runs, good for a 134 wRC+ this month. It may not be sustainable with a .403 BABIP and minuscule 1.3% walk rate, but for now, his bat is hot and the Rockies are riding with him.

Who’s not?

Maikel Franco: As has often been the case in Franco’s career, sometimes in the first few weeks of the season, he can flatter to deceive a bit, putting up solid numbers before falling off of a cliff offensively as the dog days of summer approach.

That might be happening again as the third baseman has posted a troubling .204/.200/.296 slash line in his last 14 games with just three extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts without a walk.

News of Carter Kieboom’s need for Tommy John surgery makes it seem like the third base job will be Franco’s for the foreseeable future. Still, if he keeps spiraling downward, the Nationals will need to find another, potentially younger, solution at the hot corner.

Chad Kuhl: After starting out strong this season — sporting a 1.10 ERA through his first three starts — Kuhl appears to be coming back down to earth.

In his last five starts, the right-hander has had an ERA of 5.33 and FIP of 4.93, allowing 15 earned runs in 25.1 innings while striking out 18 and walking 10. Perhaps more notably though, Kuhl allowed four home runs in that stretch after not allowing a long ball in his first three starts.

Kuhl is set to go against this hit-and-miss offense in the third game of the series and will be hoping to right the ship and find the Nationals on one of their bad offense days.

From the opposing dugout

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

One more thing to watch

The cavalry is on the way. At least, the Nationals hope that it is.

Obviously, the name that many will be looking forward to seeing back in the major leagues is Stephen Strasburg, who began his rehab with the Fredericksburg Nationals on Tuesday.

“Stephen, completed his 60 pitches, 2 2⁄3,” Martinez said. “The good news is he felt good. He’s sore today, but it’s typical soreness, but he’ll get ready to throw again in five days.”

The results weren’t great, but at this point, that’s not important. The most important part was that Strasburg made it through the start without any concerns, especially important given that it’s Thoracic Outlet Surgery he’s coming back from, hence the caution by the Nats.

Meanwhile, down at Double-A, offseason acquisition Ehire Adrianza made his first appearance in a game since going down with a quad strain near the end of Spring Training.

The utility man apparently looked good in his first appearance on Tuesday, and did so again on Wednesday, going a combined 4-for-7 with a double and a walk in those two games.

“He hit the ball well, he ran very well,” Martinez said. “So overall he played a good game... We’ll keep playing him, he’s going to play, he might get a day off in-between, but he looks good.”

It wasn’t all good news at Double-A though, as Joe Ross, who started his rehab assignment there on Tuesday, left the game after just three innings and 31 pitches, way short of what the Nationals were hoping to see from him in that outing.

“Joe had to get pulled out of the game,” Martinez explained. “Felt a little tightness in his right elbow. So he finished three innings and then couldn’t go out for the fourth. So he is getting an MRI, we don’t have any results yet.”

The skipper said they hoped to have results later that afternoon, so there will probably be more to come later today on the status of Ross as to whether it’s just a small hiccup or something more severe that may derail his rehab.

Sticking to a five-day rotation plan, Strasburg should be scheduled for another rehab start on Sunday, likely still with Fredericksburg for now. If Ross’s injury doesn’t keep him from missing a turn, then he is on the same schedule. Adrianza, in theory, will be the first to arrive back in the majors, assuming his rehab assignment goes well.

So while the Nationals take on the Rockies this weekend, a few eyes from the organization will be on their minor league teams to keep an eye on their rehabbing players.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: The last time the Dodgers visited Nationals Park, the Nats were in the midst of an injury crisis in the infield, which led to Alex Avila playing second base in the series opener.

But in the second game of the series, who started at shortstop for Washington, playing his only game for the Nationals before he was DFA’d to make room for Alcides Escobar the next day?

Answer: Humberto Arteaga

Here’s the trivia question for this series with the Rockies at Nationals Park this weekend...

This series will likely see Charlie Blackmon become the Rockies’ hit leader against the Nationals since the franchise moved to the nation’s capital. But which player will he be overtaking? That player also leads the Rockies in home runs and RBIs against the Nats.