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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels have some stars and old friends

In their first trip to Anaheim since 2017, the Nationals will face off against a couple of former friends, as well as two of the best players in the sport...

2021 T-Mobile Home Run Derby Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Well, the Washington Nationals faced a regular old team in their latest series, so obviously they dropped the three-game set to the Colorado Rockies as they’re only allowed to beat teams who made noise last season. Sorry, we don’t make the rules.

In all seriousness, it was at least promising that the offense looked pretty lively at Coors Field thanks at least in part to the altitude, but also as a result of more consistent hitting up and down the order.

What ended up letting them down, however, was manager Dave Martinez’s favorite thing, The Little Things™ as some players made some crucial errors — looking at you, Alcides Escobar — in the field and on the bases at inopportune times.

The Nationals now finish their long west coast trip against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, which still sounds as stupid as the day they changed their name, but I digress.

Over the first month of the season, the Angels finally appear to be giving Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani the support they deserve and sit pretty atop the American League West at 17-10 with an offense that ranked second in the majors in wRC+ entering Thursday’s slate.

Here’s the lowdown from Anaheim ahead of the three-game weekend series...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, May 6th, 9:38 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, May 7th, 9:07 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, May 8th, 4:07 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Joan Adon (1-4, 7.33 ERA) vs TBD (0-0, -.-- ERA)
  • Game Two: Josiah Gray (3-2, 3.12 ERA) vs Michael Lorenzen (3-1, 3.04 ERA)
  • Game Three: Erick Fedde (2-2, 4.68 ERA) vs Patrick Sandoval (1-1, 1.29 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Yadiel Hernández: Yes, Hernández was listed in this section just a couple of series ago, but it’s impossible not to take note of the extra step that the outfielder has taken in the last week.

Ahead of this road trip, Hernández was slashing a solid .289/.313/.422 on the season, but thanks to a torrid five-game stretch where the outfielder has gone a combined 12-for-22 (.545) with four doubles and seven RBIs, he’s raised his season line up to .373/.394/.522.

Nelson Cruz figures to return to the lineup as the primary Designated Hitter in Anaheim, where Hernández has been placed the last few games, however, he’s made himself too productive to leave on the bench and seems like a must-start option until he cools off.

Taylor Ward: On a team with the likes of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, and Jared Walsh, guess who leads the team in OPS so far this season? Ok, yes, it’s the guy whose name you already read a few seconds ago.

After being a bit-part player for the Angels over the last few seasons, to varying levels of success, Ward has exploded early on this season to the tune of a .368/.476/.721 slash line with six home runs and an extraordinary 248 wRC+ in his first 19 games of the season.

Ward also earned Player of the Week honors in the American League last week and is a name that the Nationals may not have expected to be circling on the Angels’ lineup card this week.

Who’s not?

Joan Adon: While there have certainly been positives about Adon in the early going, it’s safe to say that his start to the season isn’t what the Nationals were hoping for out of the 23-year-old.

Aside from an excellent 6.1 scoreless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are one of the worst offenses in the NL, the Adon has surrendered at least four runs and failed to pitch five innings in every other start this season with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts in those games.

The right-hander is set to go in the series opener against the Angels on Friday, but if things don’t turn around soon, it may be best for him to head back to Triple-A and regain some confidence.

Andrew Velazquez: When David Fletcher went down injured for the Angels in the first week of the season, they called upon Velazquez to step in as the team’s shortstop in the interim.

While his defense has drawn rave reviews from Angels brass, he’ll need to provide some sort of offense to go with it to stick around long-term. In his last 15 games, Velasquez is slashing just .105/.146/.132 with a solitary extra-base hit, 10 strikeouts, and just two walks.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Angels storylines from our friends at Crashing the Pearly Gates...

One more thing to watch

We’re sure everyone is well-acquainted with the star power that the Angels possess, with two of the best players in all of baseball in Trout and Ohtani, as well as some of the team’s rising young prospects like Ward and Walsh who we touched on earlier in the preview.

That means that a certain former National is well within his element and happy to fly under the radar at times, just as he did in D.C. — which, to be honest, was this player’s entire brand.

Obviously, we’re talking about Anthony Rendon, who is excited to be a part of a process with the Angels that feels rather familiar to him...

“We’re making that transition to become really competitive. We’re making that culture change,” Rendon told Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post earlier this year. “It’s fun to see that change, and I only notice it because I was in D.C. when we went through it.”

While his best friend with the Nationals, Trea Turner, is no longer on the team after he was traded to the other club in LA last season, Rendon will still get the chance to catch up with some of his other former teammates during the series.

So far this season, Rendon is slashing just .231/.347/.410 with three home runs and five doubles, which may seem disappointing, but that gives him a 126 OPS+, a figure normalized to the rest of the league and the new dead ball that the league seemingly introduced.

Obviously, Rendon will still be hoping for better, but the numbers at the moment may be deceiving with this year’s ball shenanigans.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: In 2017, Coors Field was the site of the first of Trea Turner’s three cycles for the Nationals. But can you name the order in which he ticked off each type of base hit?

Answer: Single, double, home run, triple

As you will have seen in our series previews so far, we’ve added a trivia question for each series for you to try your hand at and answer down in the comments, then we’ll reveal the answer in our next series preview.

Here’s the trivia question for this series against the Angels...

With Anthony Rendon’s first game against the Nationals in his career, how many times did he and Trea Turner regular-season starts did they make on the left side of the infield together in their career? a) 336 b) 360 c) 399 d) 431