clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals Series Preview: Homestand begins against St. Louis Cardinals

With the trade deadline looming, the Nationals begin a homestand with a three-game set against the Cardinals...

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Oh hey there, it’s been a while since we’ve had a series preview. Having a vacation just over two weeks long will do that. But I’m back again and the series previews are back as usual.

The Nationals may well have been on vacation too, as while I was away, they went just 2-10 against the Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, and Arizona Diamondbacks — before winning two of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers to start this week, so clearly my vacation held them back.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball though. Coming into the series, the Nationals had the worst record in Major League Baseball and the Dodgers had the best record. Over a 162-game season, the cream rises to the top, but in any given series, you never know what will happen.

Next up for the Nationals, they head back east and take on the St. Louis Cardinals at home.

The Cardinals currently occupy the final postseason spot in the National League and sit at 52-47, three games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and 2.5 games behind the San Diego Padres for the second Wild Card spot.

On offense, St. Louis has done well this season led by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado having strong seasons. Their pitching, however, is holding them back slightly from ascending to the elite teams in the league, and they will definitely be on the hunt for some this week.

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

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, July 29th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, July 30th, 7:15 pm EDT. TV: FOX, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, July 31st, 1:35 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Aníbal Sánchez (0-2, 6.30 ERA) vs Miles Mikolas (7-7, 2.54 ERA)
  • Game Two: Erick Fedde (5-7, 4.95 ERA) vs Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.10 ERA)
  • Game Three: Paolo Espino (0-3, 3.48 ERA) vs Andre Pallante (3-4, 3.34 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Steve Cishek: Right on cue before the trade deadline, Cishek has been dominating on the mound.

Since June 26th, the right-handed reliever is sporting a stellar 0.64 ERA and 2.91 FIP across 14 innings while striking out 17 batters and walking just two en route to a pair of holds and a win. In general, the bullpen has impressed lately, and Cishek has been a big part of that.

After going through a rough patch earlier this season, Cishek’s trade value was a little up in the air, but now, he should almost certainly be on the move and net some sort of prospect.

Lars Nootbaar: Be honest, have you heard of Lars Nootbaar? If not, it’s forgivable, until last season, he had barely made any waves in the minor leagues. But, as the Cardinals often do, they find a way to accelerate payers’ development and turn them into big league contributors.

Since our last series preview on July 8th, Nootbaar is slashing a strong .370/.452/.704 in 31 plate appearances while clubbing a pair of home runs and driving in seven runs. His 223 wRC+ in that span is the best figure on the Cardinals among players with at least 10 PA.

Nootbaar appears to be the team’s go-to player in right field right now, and should not be underestimated in this upcoming three-game series at Nats Park.

Who’s not?

Nelson Cruz: Guess what? Cruz was the last “Who’s not?” for the Nationals before my vacation, and he’s also the first “Who’s Not?” for the Nationals after my vacation.

In that time since July 8th, things have only gotten worse for the Nats’ DH, with Cruz holding a measly .182/.294/.227 slash line without a long ball — though he does have a stolen base, for some reason!

Because of Cruz’s track record, he still figures to be moved at the trade deadline. However, it may not be for as much as the Nationals were hoping for during his surge in May and June.

Nolan Gorman: Yes, you’ve probably heard Gorman’s name bandied about in articles about the Nationals and a potential trade package for Juan Soto. The young infielder has struggled in the big leagues of late though.

In his last 47 plate appearances, Gorman has a slash line of just .140/.213/.349 with three home runs and four RBIs. As they have been all season, strikeouts are a huge worry for the infielder, who has a whopping 38.3% strikeout rate in that span, and a 32.3% rate on the year.

If things don’t turn around soon for Gorman, he could be ticketed for a minor league tune-up, especially with Brendan Donovan impressing on the dirt for the Cardinals of late.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Cardinals storylines from our friends at Viva El Birdos...

One more thing to watch

As we touched on briefly with Nolan Gorman, the Nationals and Cardinals have been connected numerous times as potential partners in a Juan Soto trade, if he were to end up being dealt before the trade deadline on August 2nd.

At first, the Cardinals may not seem like a perfect fit given their offense isn’t really the problem, as well as making high profile trades for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the last few years, you would think that their farm system might be drained after that.

But, when you have the chance to acquire a player such as Soto, you make room for him.

The Cardinals’ farm system, meanwhile, is still chocked full with talent though, despite acquiring those two stars, so the Cards definitely have the ammunition to get a Soto deal done.

According to Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat, the Cardinals have “ratcheted up their attempts” to acquire Soto before the trade deadline, and had insight into one piece in particular...

Multiple sources have described negotiations between the clubs that includes Cardinals slugging second baseman Nolan Gorman, and a rejoinder from the Nationals that includes starting pitcher Patrick Corbin in an attempt to shed salary.

Gorman wouldn’t be the only centerpiece of any deal though. Jordan Walker, a third base prospect who is drawing rave reviews this season in Double-A, would likely be another piece, as well as the likes of Masyn Winn, Matthew Liberatore, and Gordon Graceffo.

Could Soto be playing his future teammates this weekend? It’s entirely possible, especially based on some of the reporting around the two sides and their trade talks recently...

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: The last time the Nationals played at Citizens Bank Park, they lost three of four in a series that triggered the trade deadline selloff that sent the franchise into a rebuild. Who was it who hit the walk-off grand slam for the Phillies in the series finale?

Answer: Brad Miller (you know, the #1 Nats-killer from our offseason series)

That trivia question was a while ago, but hopefully, it was a nice easy one, as you’re all avid readers who read the Nats-killer series. Here’s our next trivia question for this upcoming series the Cardinals, which has a trade theme to it given the Soto discussions between the side...

The Nationals and Cardinals have made just one trade together since the team moved to D.C. in 2005. However, the Cardinals have a long history trading with the Montréal Expos. Which current player’s father was traded from St. Louis to Montréal in 2000?