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Washington Nationals Series Preview: First visit to Globe Life Field to play Texas Rangers

The Nationals make a weekend trip to Texas to face the Rangers, where they will play at Globe Life Field for the first time...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles only resumed playing to help Austin Hays complete his cycle against the Washington Nationals, change my mind.

Ok, not really. There was a gap in the rain to try and get more of the game in while the time was still sensible before it came pouring down again. Maybe I’m just bitter because by the time the game was called, the Stanley Cup game had just finished, so I missed the dramatic ending.

It was an extremely quick series in which Erick Fedde shut down the Orioles in the series opener as the offense just about did enough, before Baltimore attacked Patrick Corbin early and often in the second game, giving them enough of an advantage to take the shortened game.

Next for the Nationals is a trip west to take on the Texas Rangers at their new ballpark for the first time since it opened during the pandemic season in 2020.

The Rangers made some huge moves this offseason, bringing in both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to man their middle infield, Jon Gray to bolster their rotation, and other shrewd moves such as acquiring Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe in trades.

So far this season, they sit at just 33-35 coming into this series. While they may not have expected to jump right to the top of the division, they will definitely be expecting more from this group.

Here’s the lowdown from Globe Life Park ahead of the three-game weekend series in Texas...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, June 24th, 8:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, June 25th, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2 and FS1, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, June 26th, 2:35 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Paolo Espino (0-1, 2.29 ERA) vs Dane Dunning (1-5, 4.38 ERA)
  • Game Two: Josiah Gray (6-4, 3.95 ERA) vs TBD (0-0, -.-- ERA)
  • Game Three: Jackson Tetreault (1-1, 5.73 ERA) vs Glenn Otto (4-2, 4.24 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Josiah Gray: It wasn’t all that long that we put Gray in the Who’s not? section of our previews, but in June, the right-hander has looked mightily impressive on the mound so far.

In three June starts, Gray has allowed just one earned run in 17 innings of work, striking out 19 batters and walking seven, good for a pristine 0.53 ERA, even if the 3.07 FIP suggests there’s been some good fortune for the young starter so far this month.

In his last start, Gray allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings while striking out nine and throwing a season-high 117 pitches, his second-straight triple-digit pitch outing. The Nationals appear to be taking the training wheels off a bit lately, and Gray has responded well in his last few starts. He’ll look to keep it going when he starts the second game of the series.

Adolis García: The breakout star for the Rangers last year, a waiver claim from the St. Louis Cardinals before the season, is dusting off some of the magic again lately.

In his last 17 games, García is slashing an impressive .328/.370/.612 with five long balls, a triple, and a pair of doubles while striking out 17 times and walking five. All in all, that’s good for a 178 wRC+ in that stretch as he heats up again at the plate for the Rangers.

With all of the big-name moves by the Rangers over the winter, maybe some on the outside forgot about García a little bit. He’s proving lately why he still needs to be accounted for.

Who’s not?

Steve Cishek: The Nationals bullpen giveth, and the Nationals bullpen taketh away. For a time, Cishek was one of the team’s more dependable relievers but had crashed lately.

In June, Cishek sports an ugly 7.71 ERA and 6.24 FIP in eight appearances, including allowing seven earned runs in his last three outings, the most recent of which was a four-run blow-up against the Orioles in the shortened game on Wednesday.

The fact he was being used in such a low leverage spot with the Nats already a fair way behind and it still being early in the game shows the Cishek has lost a bit of standing in the team’s bullpen. He’ll need to right the ship a bit if he wants a move to a contender this summer.

Brad Miller: Superstitious readers, beware. This is almost certain to invoke a jinx for this series. Back in the offseason, Miller was ranked #1 in our Nats-killer series but hasn’t been hitting like one as of late.

Since returning from the IL on June 10th, Miller is slashing just .167/.265/.167 without an extra-base hit in 30 at-bats as the team’s primary DH, with occasional starts in the corner outfield spots or at third base where needed.

So, fully expect him to break out of his funk against the Nationals this weekend, a team that he has historically put up MVP-caliber numbers against during his major league career.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Rangers storylines from our friends at Lone Star Ball...

One more thing to watch

Do any of you recognize the man set to start for the Rangers in the series opener on Friday?

Some of you will, but if you don’t, Dane Dunning is a former Nationals prospect who the team picked with the 29th overall selection of the 2016 MLB Draft, a pick they received as compensation for Ian Desmond’s departure to, funnily enough, the Texas Rangers.

Just over a year later, Dunning was shipped to the Chicago White Sox along with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López for Adam Eaton. Fair to say that trade worked out pretty well for both sides in the end.

After four years in the White Sox organization, Dunning was traded to the Rangers for starting pitcher Lancy Lynn, though the now 27-year-old right-hander has had mixed results in Texas.

In parts of two seasons with the Rangers, Dunning is 6-15 and sports an underwhelming 4.46 ERA in 41 appearances, 39 of which were starts. In general, he’s pitched better than his record and ERA indicate, which a 3.97 FIP in that span seemingly backs up.

This season has been a bizarre one for the right-hander though. At home, Dunning looks every bit the major league caliber starter with a 3.02 ERA and .195/.261/.369 slash line against him. On the road, however, he has a 6.03 ERA and .308/.388/.420 slash line against.

“Something’s got to change,” a frustrated Dunning told Evan Grant of Dallas News after his most recent road start against the Detroit Tigers where he surrendered five runs in 4.2 innings.

“Something’s got to be figured out. I know the numbers haven’t been great. You’ve got to do something to change and compete better and give our team a chance at winning.”

Fortunately for Dunning, he gets to face the team that drafted him in his home ballpark this weekend, so will be hoping that he can continue his strong run of starts going when he takes the hill on Friday.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: 10 players have hit a home run as a member of both the Orioles and Nationals, but only one has hit a home run for the Orioles against the Nationals and for the Nationals against the Orioles. Can you name that player?

Answer: Mark Reynolds

Here’s our trivia question for this series with the Rangers, and we have a question relating to the Rangers’ new ballpark, with this series marking the first time the Nats have made the trip there.

Which five players currently on the Nationals' active roster have either had a plate appearance or pitched to a batter in the MLB regular season at Globe Life Field?